Relationship between Cortical Thickness and Neuropsychological Performance in Normal Older Adults and Those with Mild Cognitive Impairment

Aging Dis. 2018 Dec 4;9(6):1020-1030. doi: 10.14336/AD.2018.0125. eCollection 2018 Dec.


Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has been extensively investigated in recent decades to identify groups with a high risk of dementia and to establish effective prevention methods during this period. Neuropsychological performance and cortical thickness are two important biomarkers used to predict progression from MCI to dementia. This study compares the cortical thickness and neuropsychological performance in people with MCI and cognitively healthy older adults. We further focus on the relationship between cortical thickness and neuropsychological performance in these two groups. Forty-nine participants with MCI and 40 cognitively healthy older adults were recruited. Cortical thickness was analysed with semiautomatic software, Freesurfer. The analysis reveals that the cortical thickness in the left caudal anterior cingulate (p=0.041), lateral occipital (p=0.009) and right superior temporal (p=0.047) areas were significantly thinner in the MCI group after adjustment for age and education. Almost all neuropsychological test results (with the exception of forward digit span) were significantly correlated to cortical thickness in the MCI group after adjustment for age, gender and education. In contrast, only the score on the Category Verbal Fluency Test and the forward digit span were found to have significant inverse correlations to cortical thickness in the control group of cognitively healthy older adults. The study results suggest that cortical thinning in the temporal region reflects the global change in cognition in subjects with MCI and may be useful to predict progression of MCI to Alzheimer's disease. The different pattern in the correlation of cortical thickness to the neuropsychological performance of patients with MCI from the healthy control subjects may be explained by the hypothesis of MCI as a disconnection syndrome.

Keywords: cortical thickness; dementia; magnetic resonance imaging; mild cognitive impairment; neuropsychological performance.