Racial differences in gray matter integrity by diffusion tensor in black and white octogenarians

Ge Liu, Ben Allen, Oscar Lopez, Howard Aizenstein, Robert Boudreau, Anne Newman, Kristine Yaffe, Stephen Kritchevsky, Lenore Launer, Suzanne Satterfield, Eleanor Simonsick, Caterina Rosano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To quantify racial differences in brain structural characteristics in white and black octogenarians, and to examine whether these characteristics contribute to cognition. Methods: Cross-sectional study of 283 adults 79-89 years old (59.4% white;42.0% women) with data on gray matter integrity via diffusion tensor imaging (mean diffusivity), gray matter atrophy (GMA), white matter hyperintensities (WMH), literacy, smoking, drinking, income, hypertension and diabetes. Participants were recruited from an ongoing epidemiological study of older adults living in the community with a range of chronic conditions, physical and cognitive function. Standardized betas (sβ) of neuroimaging markers predicting Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) and Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) scores were computed in multivariable regression models stratified by race. Results: Compared to whites, blacks had lower DSST (p=0.001) and lower 3MS (p=0.006), but also lower mean diffusivity (i.e. higher gray matter microstructural integrity, p=0.032), independent of gender, income, literacy, body mass index, diabetes and drinking habits. Racial differences were not significant for WMH (p=0.062) or GMA (p=0.4). Among blacks, mean diffusivity and WMH were associated with DSST (sβ=-.209, p=0.037and -.211, p=.038, respectively) independent of each other and other covariates; among whites, mean diffusivity, but not WMH, was significantly associated with DSST and 3MS (sβ =-.277, p=.002 and -.250, p=0.029, respectively). Conclusions: In this cohort of octogenarians living in the community, blacks appeared to have higher microstructural integrity of gray matter as compared to whites. This neuroimaging marker was related to higher cognition even in the presence of WMH and other cardiovascular conditions. If confirmed, these findings suggest microstructural gray matter integrity may be a target to improve cognition, especially among blacks who survive to very old age with a range of chronic cardiovascular conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)648-654
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Alzheimer Research
Volume12
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Brain MRI
  • Cognitive aging
  • DTI
  • Racial differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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