Magnetic resonance imaging correlates of memory impairment in the healthy elderly: association with medial temporal lobe atrophy but not white matter lesions

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 1997 Mar;12(3):369-74.


Objective: To investigate the neuroradiological correlates of age-related cognitive decline in the elderly.

Design: A sample of healthy control subjects underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning and cognitive testing.

Setting: Melbourne, Australia.

Participants: 40 volunteers over the age of 55 who were spouses of subjects seen in a hospital memory clinic, subjects from a register of normal volunteer subjects (not staff) kept for research purposes or residents of a retirement hostel.

Measures: Hippocampal and amygdala (HA) atrophy, periventricular lesions (PVL) and deep white matter lesions (DWML) were rated by two radiologists blind to cognitive test score results. Cognitive assessment was by the Cambridge Cognitive Examination (CAMCOG).

Results: After controlling for age and education, lower scores on the memory subscale of the CAMCOG were associated with the presence of HA atrophy, but not with DWML or PVL.

Conclusions: HA atrophy on MRI is associated with impaired memory performance in the healthy elderly, while PVL and DWML are not. Further study should determine whether HA atrophy is a risk factor for developing dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amygdala / pathology
  • Atrophy
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebral Ventricles / pathology
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia, Vascular / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology*