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Keywords:

  • brain atrophy;
  • obesity;
  • tensor-based morphometry

Abstract

Obesity is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular health problems including diabetes, hypertension, and stroke. These cardiovascular afflictions increase risk for cognitive decline and dementia, but it is unknown whether these factors, specifically obesity and Type II diabetes, are associated with specific patterns of brain atrophy. We used tensor-based morphometry (TBM) to examine gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volume differences in 94 elderly subjects who remained cognitively normal for at least 5 years after their scan. Bivariate analyses with corrections for multiple comparisons strongly linked body mass index (BMI), fasting plasma insulin (FPI) levels, and Type II Diabetes Mellitus (DM2) with atrophy in frontal, temporal, and subcortical brain regions. A multiple regression model, also correcting for multiple comparisons, revealed that BMI was still negatively correlated with brain atrophy (FDR <5%), while DM2 and FPI were no longer associated with any volume differences. In an Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) model controlling for age, gender, and race, obese subjects with a high BMI (BMI > 30) showed atrophy in the frontal lobes, anterior cingulate gyrus, hippocampus, and thalamus compared with individuals with a normal BMI (18.5–25). Overweight subjects (BMI: 25–30) had atrophy in the basal ganglia and corona radiata of the WM. Overall brain volume did not differ between overweight and obese persons. Higher BMI was associated with lower brain volumes in overweight and obese elderly subjects. Obesity is therefore associated with detectable brain volume deficits in cognitively normal elderly subjects. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.