Size matters: grey matter brain reserve predicts executive functioning in the elderly


  • M. Laubach
  • F. Lammers
  • N. Zacharias
  • I. Feinkohl
  • T. Pischon
  • F Borchers
  • A.J.C. Slooter
  • S. Kühn
  • C. Spies
  • G. Winterer


  • Neuropsychologia


  • Neuropsychologia 119: 172-181


  • Preserved executive functioning (EF) is crucial for daily functioning in the elderly and it appears to predict dementia development. We sought to clarify the role of atrophy-corrected cortical grey matter (GM) volume as a potential brain reserve (BR) marker for EF in the elderly. In total, 206 pre-surgical subjects (72.50 ± 4.95 years; mean MMSE score 28.50) were investigated. EF was primarily assessed using the Trail Making Test B (TMT B). Global/ lobar GM volumes were acquired with T1 MP-RAGE. Adjusting for key covariates including a brain atrophy index (i.e. brain parenchymal fraction), multiple linear regression analysis was used to study associations of GM volumes and TMT B. All GM volumes - most notably of global GM - were significantly associated with TMT B independently of GM atrophy (ß = -0.201 to -0.275, p = 0.001 to 0.012). Using atrophy-corrected GM volume as an estimate of maximal GM size in youth may serve as a BR predictor for cognitive decline in future studies investigating BR in the elderly.