Age-related iron accumulation and demyelination in the basal ganglia are closely related to verbal memory and executive functioning

Davina Biel, Tineke K Steiger, Nico Bunzeck
2021 Scientific Reports  
Age-related cognitive decline has been linked to alterations of the dopaminergic system and its subcortical trajectories. Recent work suggests a critical role of iron accumulation within the basal ganglia (BG) in verbal memory performance, and increased iron levels have been related to demyelination. However, the specificity of age-related iron increases with respect to cognitive functions remains unclear. Therefore, we investigated the interplay of age, cognitive performance, and structural
more » ... egrity of the BG. In total, 79 healthy older participants underwent a broad cognitive assessment (fluid and crystallized intelligence, verbal and numeric memory, processing speed, executive functions) and structural MRI. As expected, performance in most cognitive tests had a negative relationship with age. Moreover, BG grey matter volume and magnetization transfer (MT, indicative of myelin) decreased, and R2* (indicative of iron) increased with age. Importantly, R2* and demyelination negatively correlated with verbal memory and executive functions. Within the SN/VTA, age correlated negatively with MT, but there was no clear evidence in favor of a relationship between behavior and R2* or MT. Our results suggest that age-related increases in iron and demyelination within the BG, which are part of a fronto-striatal network, not only impact on verbal memory but also executive functions.
doi:10.1038/s41598-021-88840-1 pmid:33941809 fatcat:beuzifelvrbrnc6lvxu2mnd45q