Blood Pressure, White Matter Disease, and Cognitive Decline in the Normal Elderly Population

Date of Completion

January 2011


Psychology, Psychobiology|Gerontology|Health Sciences, Aging|Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Cognitive|Psychology, Physiological




Age-related changes in brain morphology have been linked to memory loss, declines in executive functioning, and slower reaction time. Furthermore, hypertension is a strong risk factor for cognitive decline. However, few studies have examined longitudinal relationships between blood pressure, frontal white matter integrity, hippocampal grey matter volume, and cognition within a healthy elderly population. This study utilized structural MRI and neuropsychological tests administered two years apart to examine these relationships in a sample of healthy, community-dwelling older adults aged 75-90. Results indicated that increases in frontal white matter disease and, more strongly, declines in hippocampal volume were better predictors of cognitive change than age and education. No significant associations were observed between blood pressure and cognition. These findings suggest tracking trajectories of structural change within the brains of elderly individuals over time can facilitate identification of those at risk for cognitive decline.^