Low cortical iron and high entorhinal cortex volume promote cognitive functioning in the oldest-old

Jiri M.G. van Bergen, Xu Li, Frances C. Quevenco, Anton F. Gietl, Valerie Treyer, Sandra E. Leh, Rafael Meyer, Alfred Buck, Philipp A. Kaufmann, Roger M. Nitsch, Peter C.M. van Zijl, Christoph Hock, Paul G. Unschuld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The aging brain is characterized by an increased presence of neurodegenerative and vascular pathologies. However, there is substantial variation regarding the relationship between an individual's pathological burden and resulting cognitive impairment. To identify correlates of preserved cognitive functioning at highest age, the relationship between β-amyloid plaque load, presence of small vessel cerebrovascular disease (SVCD), iron-burden, and brain atrophy was investigated. Eighty cognitively unimpaired participants (44 oldest-old, aged 85–96 years; 36 younger-old, aged 55–80 years) were scanned by integrated positron emission tomography–magnetic resonance imaging for assessing beta regional amyloid plaque load (18F-flutemetamol), white matter hyperintensities as an indicator of SVCD (fluid-attenuated inversion recovery–magnetic resonance imaging), and iron load (quantitative susceptibility mapping). For the oldest-old group, lower cortical volume, increased β-amyloid plaque load, prevalence of SVCD, and lower cognitive performance in the normal range were found. However, compared to normal-old, cortical iron burden was lower in the oldest-old. Moreover, only in the oldest-old, entorhinal cortex volume positively correlated with β-amyloid plaque load. Our data thus indicate that the co-occurrence of aging-associated neuropathologies with reduced quantitative susceptibility mapping measures of cortical iron load constitutes a lower vulnerability to cognitive loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-75
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of aging
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • APOE
  • Beta-amyloid
  • Cognitive reserve
  • Iron
  • MRI
  • Maintenance
  • Oldest-old
  • PET
  • QSM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Developmental Biology


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