Linking Type and Extent of Head Trauma to Cavum Septum Pellucidum in Older Adults With and Without Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias

Neurology. 2024 Apr 9;102(7):e209183. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000209183. Epub 2024 Mar 15.


Background and objectives: Cavum septum pellucidum (CSP) is a common but nonspecific MRI finding in individuals with prior head trauma. The type and extent of head trauma related to CSP, CSP features specific to head trauma, and the impact of brain atrophy on CSP are unknown. We evaluated CSP cross-sectionally and longitudinally in healthy and clinically impaired older adults who underwent detailed lifetime head trauma characterization.

Methods: This is an observational cohort study of University of California, San Francisco Memory and Aging Center participants (healthy controls [HCs], those with Alzheimer disease or related dementias [ADRDs], subset with traumatic encephalopathy syndrome [TES]). We characterized traumatic brain injury (TBI) and repetitive head impacts (RHI) through contact/collision sports. Study groups were no RHI/TBI, prior TBI only, prior RHI only, and prior RHI + TBI. We additionally looked within TBI (1, 2, or 3+) and RHI (1-4, 5-10, and 11+ years). All underwent baseline MRI, and 67% completed a second MRI (median follow-up = 5.4 years). CSP measures included grade (0-4) and length (millimeters). Groups were compared on likelihood of CSP (logistic regression, odds ratios [ORs]) and whether CSP length discriminated groups (area under the curve [AUC]).

Results: Our sample included 266 participants (N = 160 HCs, N = 106 with ADRD or TES; age 66.8 ± 8.2 years, 45.3% female). Overall, 123 (49.8%) participants had no RHI/TBI, 52 (21.1%) had TBI only, 41 (16.6%) had RHI only, 31 (12.6%) had RHI + TBI, and 20 were classified as those with TES (7.5%). Compared with no RHI/TBI, RHI + TBI (OR 3.11 [1.23-7.88]) and TES (OR 11.6 [2.46-54.8]) had greater odds of CSP. Approximately 5-10 years (OR 2.96 [1.13-7.77]) and 11+ years of RHI (OR 3.14 [1.06-9.31]) had higher odds of CSP. CSP length modestly discriminated participants with 5-10 years (AUC 0.63 [0.51-0.75]) and 11+ years of prior RHI (AUC 0.69 [0.55-0.84]) from no RHI/TBI (cut point = 6 mm). Strongest effects were noted in analyses of American football participation. Longitudinally, CSP grade was unchanged in 165 (91.7%), and length was unchanged in 171 (95.5%) participants.

Discussion: Among older adults with and without neurodegenerative disease, risk of CSP is driven more by duration (years) of RHI, especially American football, than number of TBI. CSP length (≥6 mm) is relatively specific to individuals who have had substantial prior RHI. Neurodegenerative disease and progressive atrophy do not clearly influence development or worsening of CSP.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic* / pathology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / complications
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Football*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / pathology
  • Septum Pellucidum / diagnostic imaging
  • Septum Pellucidum / pathology