Low episodic memory performance characterizes elderly subjects at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and may reflect neuronal dysfunction within the posterior cingulate cortex and precuneus (PCP) region. To investigate a potential association between cerebral neurometabolism and low episodic memory in the absence of cognitive impairment, tissue-specific magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging at ultrahigh field strength of 7 Tesla was used to investigate the PCP region in a healthy elderly study population (n = 30, age 70 ± 5.7 years, Mini-Mental State Examination 29.4 ± 4.1). The Verbal Learning and Memory Test (VLMT) was administered as part of a neuropsychological battery for assessment of episodic memory performance. Significant differences between PCP gray and white matter could be observed for glutamate-glutamine (p = 0.001), choline (p = 0.01), and myo-inositol (p = 0.02). Low Verbal Learning and Memory Test performance was associated with high N-acetylaspartate in PCP gray matter (p = 0.01) but not in PCP white matter. Our data suggest that subtle decreases in episodic memory performance in the elderly may be associated with increased levels of N-acetylaspartate as a reflection of increased mitochondrial energy capacity in PCP gray matter.
Keywords: 7 Tesla; Aging; Episodic memory; Human subjects; Magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging; Posterior cingulate.
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