Brain cortical thickness in the general elderly population: the Rotterdam Scan Study

Neurosci Lett. 2013 Aug 29;550:189-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2013.06.063. Epub 2013 Jul 3.


Cortical thickness is considered a potentially relevant marker for neurodegenerative diseases. However, the relationship of demographic and vascular risk factors with cortical thickness remains unclear. In a population-based sample of 1022 non-demented elderly persons (mean age 68.4±7.3 years), we examined aging effects on global and lobar cortical thickness and the relationship with demographic variables and cardiovascular risk factors. We used a validated model-based approach to calculate mean cortical thickness (μm) in brain MR-images. We found that women had a significant thicker cortex than men (p<0.01). Further, with increasing age, cortical thickness decreased (approximately 0.2% per year), with the largest age effects for the occipital and temporal lobes, and the decrease in the frontal lobe being more apparent in men than in women (p-interaction<0.001). Additionally, higher education, higher diastolic blood pressure and larger intra-cranial volume were related to a larger cortical thickness, whilst diabetes mellitus and higher HDL cholesterol levels were related to a thinner cortex.

Keywords: Cardiovascular risk factors; Cerebral cortex; Cortical thickness; Magnetic resonance imaging; Normal aging; Population-based.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics