Newer approaches to characterizing hippocampal morphology can provide novel insights regarding cognitive function across the lifespan. We comprehensively assessed the relationships among age, hippocampal morphology, and hippocampal-dependent cognitive function in 137 healthy individuals across the adult lifespan (18-86 years of age). They underwent MRI, cognitive assessments and genotyping for Apolipoprotein E status. We measured hippocampal subfield volumes using a new multiatlas segmentation tool (MAGeT-Brain) and assessed vertex-wise (inward and outward displacements) and global surface-based descriptions of hippocampus morphology. We examined the effects of age on hippocampal morphology, as well as the relationship among age, hippocampal morphology, and episodic and working memory performance. Age and volume were modestly correlated across hippocampal subfields. Significant patterns of inward and outward displacement in hippocampal head and tail were associated with age. The first principal shape component of the left hippocampus, characterized by a lengthening of the antero-posterior axis was prominently associated with working memory performance across the adult lifespan. In contrast, no significant relationships were found among subfield volumes and cognitive performance. Our findings demonstrate that hippocampal shape plays a unique and important role in hippocampal-dependent cognitive aging across the adult lifespan, meriting consideration as a biomarker in strategies targeting the delay of cognitive aging.
Keywords: MRI; aging; cognition; hippocampus; memory; morphometry.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.