Memory and executive function in older adults: Relationships with temporal and prefrontal gray matter volumes and white matter hyperintensities

Cyma Van Petten, Elena M Plante, Patrick S R Davidson, Trudy Y. Kuo, Leslie Bajuscak, Elizabeth L Glisky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

139 Scopus citations


Forty-eight healthy adults aged 65-85 were recruited for structural magnetic resonance scans after an extensive neuropsychological battery that ensured a high degree of variability across the sample in performance on long-term memory tests, and on tests traditionally thought to rely on prefrontal cortex. Gray matter volumes were measured for three gyri in the frontal lobe (superior, middle, inferior), six gyri in the temporal lobe (superior, middle, inferior, fusiform, parahippocampal, and hippocampus), and the occipital lobe. Gray matter volumes declined across the age range evaluated, but with substantial regional variation - greatest in the inferior frontal, superior temporal, and middle temporal gyri but negligible in the occipital lobe. Both memory performance and executive function declined as the number of hyperintense regions in the subcortical white matter increased. Memory performance was also significantly correlated with gray matter volumes of the middle frontal gyrus (MFG), and several regions of temporal neocortex. However, the correlations were all in the negative direction; better memory performance was associated with smaller volumes. Several previous reports of significant negative correlations between gray matter volumes and memory performance are described, so that the possible reasons for this surprising finding are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1313-1335
Number of pages23
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2004



  • Elderly
  • Gray matter
  • Magnetic resonance (MR)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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