Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health
Brain Circuitry Loss May Be Sign of Cognitive
Decline in Healthy Elderly
Brain area known as the fornix may be connected to
cognitive decline in senior citizens
The Hippocampus appears to be
crucial for the transfer of memories into long-term storage.
While it is debated as to exactly how this task is carried out,
it is clear that the hippocampus is necessary to file away new
memories as they occur.
Image from NuroRehabilitation & Neuropsychological Services,
P.C., a neuropsychology practice based in Massapequa Park, New
York. The practice includes neuropsychologist Dr. Robert Coben
and neurophysiologist, Dr. William J. Hudspeth. Specialties
include neuropsychological assessment, QEEG, and neurofeedback.
Website, The Brain
Sept. 9, 2013 - The quest to find that very moment
when a healthy elderly brain shifts into cognitive decline – considered
an important goal for finding a better way to fight dementia – may have
a new area to explore. The loss of white matter in the area of the brain
known as the fornix may be connected to cognitive decline in senior
citizens, says a new study.
This discovery may be helpful in predicting the
earliest clinical deterioration, according to the study by Evan
Fletcher, Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis, and colleagues.
Atrophy in the hippocampus of the brain is well
recognized in the later stages of cognitive decline and is one of the
most studied changes associated with the Alzheimer disease process.
However, changes to the fornix and other regions of the brain
structurally connected to the hippocampus are still being explored,
according to the study background.
The specific purpose of this research was to
examine the involvement of the hippocampus-fornix circuit in the very
earliest stages of cognitive impairment and to determine whether the
volumes of fornix white matter and hippocampal gray matter would be
useful markers for understanding the onset of dementia and for clinical
The study included 102 cognitively normal elderly
patients, with an average age of 73 years, recruited through community
outreach, and the study used magnetic resonance imaging and other
scanning scans during repeated visits over four years.
According to the results, changes in fornix white
matter volume were “highly significant predictors” of cognitive decline.
“This could be among the first studies establishing
fornix degeneration as a predictor of incipient cognitive decline among
healthy elderly individuals,” the study concludes.
“Predictive fornix volume reductions might be
explained at least in part by clinically silent hippocampus
degeneration. The importance of this finding is that white matter tract
measures may become promising candidate biomarkers for identifying
incipient cognitive decline in a clinical setting, possibly more so than
traditional gray matter measures.”
The study was published today in
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