Low episodic memory performance in cognitively normal elderly subjects is associated with increased posterior cingulate gray matter N-acetylaspartate: a 1H MRSI study at 7 Tesla

Neurobiol Aging. 2016 Dec;48:195-203. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2016.08.022. Epub 2016 Aug 31.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gray Matter / metabolism*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism


  • Aspartic Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate