Size matters: Grey matter brain reserve predicts executive functioning in the elderly

Neuropsychologia. 2018 Oct;119:172-181. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.08.008. Epub 2018 Aug 10.


Preserved executive functioning (EF) is crucial for daily functioning in the elderly and it appears to predict dementia development. We sought to clarify the role of atrophy-corrected cortical grey matter (GM) volume as a potential brain reserve (BR) marker for EF in the elderly. In total, 206 pre-surgical subjects (72.50 ± 4.95 years; mean MMSE score 28.50) were investigated. EF was primarily assessed using the Trail Making Test B (TMT B). Global/ lobar GM volumes were acquired with T1 MP-RAGE. Adjusting for key covariates including a brain atrophy index (i.e. brain parenchymal fraction), multiple linear regression analysis was used to study associations of GM volumes and TMT B. All GM volumes - most notably of global GM - were significantly associated with TMT B independently of GM atrophy (ß = -0.201 to -0.275, p = 0.001-0.012). Using atrophy-corrected GM volume as an estimate of maximal GM size in youth may serve as a BR predictor for cognitive decline in future studies investigating BR in the elderly.

Keywords: Brain reserve; Cognitive reserve; Elderly; Executive functioning; Neuroimaging; Neuropsychology.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrophy
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cognitive Aging*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology
  • Cognitive Reserve*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Prognosis