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Cortisol levels during human aging predict hippocampal atrophy and memory deficits

Nature Neuroscience volume 1, pages 6973 (1998) | Download Citation

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  • A Correction to this article was published on 01 August 1998

Abstract

Elevated glucocorticoid levels produce hippocampal dysfunction and correlate with individual deficits in spatial learning in aged rats. Previously we related persistent cortisol increases to memory impairments in elderly humans studied over five years. Here we demonstrate that aged humans with significant prolonged cortisol elevations showed reduced hippocampal volume and deficits in hippocampus-dependent memory tasks compared to normal-cortisol controls. Moreover, the degree of hippocampal atrophy correlated strongly with both the degree of cortisol elevation over time and current basal cortisol levels. Therefore, basal cortisol elevation may cause hippocampal damage and impair hippocampus-dependent learning and memory in humans.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by grants from the American Alzheimer's Association and the National Institute of Aging (AG09488) to MJM, by a fellowship from the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ) to SJL, and was supported in part by NIH grants to MdeL (AG12101, AG13616), and as a part of the NIA Alzheimer's disease core center grant (P30 AG08051). It was also supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. RLH was a recipient of the VA Clinical Investigator career development award and partially supported by the UCSD NIMH CRC (PHS MH30914-14). The Aging Research Program of the Douglas Hospital is generously supported by ALCAN Canada Ltd.

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Affiliations

  1. Aging Research Program, Douglas Hospital Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, 6875 Boulevard Lasalle, Verdun (Québec), H4H-1R3, Canada

    • Sonia J. Lupien
    • , N. P. V. Nair
    • , Mira Thakur
    •  & Michael J. Meaney
  2. Human Psychoneuroendocrine Research Laboratory, Geriatric Institute of Montreal, 4565 Queen Mary, Montreal (Québec) H3W-1W5, Canada

    • Sonia J. Lupien
  3. Aging and Dementia Research Center, NY University Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, New York, New York 10016, USA

    • Mony de Leon
    • , Susan de Santi
    • , Antonio Convit
    •  & Chaim Tarshish
  4. Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA

    • Bruce S. McEwen
  5. Department of Psychiatry, University of California and VA Medical Center, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, California 92161, USA

    • Richard L. Hauger

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Correspondence to Sonia J. Lupien.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/271

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