Early Brain Changes Predict Functional Decline

Using Vanderbilt Memory and Aging Project data, researchers found smaller grey matter volume and greater white matter hyperintensities at study entry predicted faster decline in the ability to complete complex tasks.

Grey matter throughout the nervous system enables individuals to control movement, memory, and emotions. White matter hyperintensities are white matter lesions in the brain, which have been associated with cognitive decline.

These neuroimaging markers can be present in the brain years before cognitive decline begins. Importantly, associations between grey matter volume and the decline in the ability to complete complex tasks were consistently stronger in individuals at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This includes individuals with mild cognitive impairment and APOE4 carriers, the largest genetic risk factor Alzheimer’s disease.

These findings demonstrate the ability of neuroimaging markers to help identify individuals at increased risk of more rapid future functional decline.

Read the full study here.