Thinner cortex in patients with subjective cognitive decline is associated with steeper decline of memory

Neurobiol Aging. 2018 Jan:61:238-244. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.09.009. Epub 2017 Sep 20.


We aimed to investigate associations between regional cortical thickness and rate of decline over time in 4 cognitive domains in patients with subjective cognitive decline (SCD). We included 233 SCD patients with the total number of 654 neuropsychological assessments (median = 3, range = 2-8) and available baseline magnetic resonance imaging from the Amsterdam Dementia Cohort (125 males, age: 63 ± 9, Mini-Mental State Examination score: 28 ± 2). We assessed longitudinal cognitive functioning at baseline and follow-up in 4 cognitive domains (composite Z-scores): memory, attention, executive function, and language. Thickness (millimeter) was estimated using FreeSurfer for frontal, temporal, parietal, cingulate, and occipital cortices. We used linear mixed models to estimate effects of cortical thickness on cognitive performance (dependent variables). There were no associations between cortical thickness and baseline cognition, but a faster subsequent rate of memory loss was associated with thinner cortex of the frontal [β (SE) = 0.20 (0.07)], temporal [β (SE) = 0.18 (0.07)], and occipital [β (SE) = 0.22 (0.09)] cortices (all p < 0.05FDR). These findings illustrate that early cortical changes, particularly in the temporal cortex, herald incipient cognitive decline related to neurodegenerative diseases, most prominently Alzheimer's disease.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Cognition; Longitudinal; Memory; Structural magnetic resonance imaging; Subjective cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / complications
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests
  • Middle Aged