Hippocampal shape across the healthy lifespan and its relationship with cognition

Neurobiol Aging. 2021 Oct;106:153-168. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2021.03.018. Epub 2021 Apr 24.


The study of the hippocampus across the healthy adult lifespan has rendered inconsistent findings. While volumetric measurements have often been a popular technique for analysis, more advanced morphometric techniques have demonstrated compelling results that highlight the importance and improved specificity of shape-based measures. Here, the MAGeT Brain algorithm was applied on 134 healthy individuals aged 18-81 years old to extract hippocampal subfield volumes and hippocampal shape measurements, namely: local surface area (SA) and displacement. We used linear-, second- or third-order natural splines to examine the relationships between hippocampal measures and age. In addition, partial least squares analyses were performed to relate volume and shape measurements with cognitive and demographic information. Volumetric results indicated a relative preservation of the right cornus ammonis 1 with age and a global volume reduction linked with older age, female sex, lower levels of education and cognitive performance. Vertex-wise analysis demonstrated an SA preservation in the anterior hippocampus with a peak during the sixth decade, while the posterior hippocampal SA gradually decreased across lifespan. Overall, SA decrease was linked to older age, female sex and, to a lesser extent lower levels of education and cognitive performance. Outward displacement in the lateral hippocampus and inward displacement in the medial hippocampus were enlarged with older age, lower levels of cognition and education, indicating an accentuation of the hippocampal "C" shape with age. Taken together, our findings suggest that vertex-wise analyses have higher spatial specifity and that sex, education, and cognition are implicated in the differential impact of age on hippocampal subregions throughout its anteroposterior and medial-lateral axes. This article is part of the Virtual Special Issue titled COGNITIVE NEU- ROSCIENCE OF HEALTHY AND PATHOLOGICAL AGING. The full issue can be found on ScienceDirect at https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/neurobiology-of-aging/special-issue/105379XPWJP.

Keywords: Aging; Cognition; Education; Hippocampus; MRI; Sex; Shape.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Healthy Aging / pathology*
  • Healthy Aging / psychology*
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longevity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult

Grant support