Evidence of a Relation Between Hippocampal Volume, White Matter Hyperintensities, and Cognition in Subjective Cognitive Decline and Mild Cognitive Impairment

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2020 Aug 13;75(7):1382-1392. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbz120.


Objective: The concepts of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and subjective cognitive decline (SCD) have been proposed to identify individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD), or other neurodegenerative diseases. One approach to validate these concepts is to investigate the relationship between pathological brain markers and cognition in those individuals.

Method: We included 126 participants from the Consortium for the Early Identification of Alzheimer's disease-Quebec (CIMA-Q) cohort (67 SCD, 29 MCI, and 30 cognitively healthy controls [CH]). All participants underwent a complete cognitive assessment and structural magnetic resonance imaging. Group comparisons were done using cognitive data, and then correlated with hippocampal volumes and white matter hyperintensities (WMHs).

Results: Significant differences were found between participants with MCI and CH on episodic and executive tasks, but no differences were found when comparing SCD and CH. Scores on episodic memory tests correlated with hippocampal volumes in both MCI and SCD, whereas performance on executive tests correlated with WMH in all of our groups.

Discussion: As expected, the SCD group was shown to be cognitively healthy on tasks where MCI participants showed impairment. However, SCD's hippocampal volume related to episodic memory performances, and WMH to executive functions. Thus, SCD represents a valid research concept and should be used, alongside MCI, to better understand the preclinical/prodromal phase of AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Biomarkers; Neuroimaging; Neuropsychology.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests
  • Neuroimaging
  • Organ Size
  • White Matter / anatomy & histology
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology*

Grant support