Volume of the hippocampal subfields in healthy adults: differential associations with age and a pro-inflammatory genetic variant

Brain Struct Funct. 2015 Sep;220(5):2663-74. doi: 10.1007/s00429-014-0817-6. Epub 2014 Jun 20.


The hippocampus is one of the most age-sensitive brain regions, yet the mechanisms of hippocampal shrinkage remain unclear. Recent studies suggest that hippocampal subfields are differentially vulnerable to aging and differentially sensitive to vascular risk. Promoters of inflammation are frequently proposed as major contributors to brain aging and vascular disease but their effects on hippocampal subfields are unknown. We examined the associations of hippocampal subfield volumes with age, a vascular risk factor (hypertension), and genetic polymorphisms associated with variation in pro-inflammatory cytokines levels (IL-1β C-511T and IL-6 C-174G) and risk for Alzheimer's disease (APOEε4) in healthy adult volunteers (N = 80; age = 22-82 years). Volumes of three hippocampal subfields, cornu ammonis (CA) 1-2, CA3-dentate gyrus, and the subiculum were manually measured on high-resolution magnetic resonance images. Advanced age was differentially associated with smaller volume of CA1-2, whereas carriers of the T allele of IL-1β C-511T polymorphism had smaller volume of all hippocampal subfields than CC homozygotes did. Neither of the other genetic variants, nor diagnosis of hypertension, was associated with any of the measured volumes. The results support the notion that volumes of age-sensitive brain regions may be affected by pro-inflammatory factors that may be targeted by therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult