Brain shrinkage in the hippocampus linked to cognitive decline beyond Alzheimer’s

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A groundbreaking study reveals that shrinkage in the hippocampus, a critical brain region associated with memory, is linked to cognitive decline, even in individuals without Alzheimer’s disease markers like amyloid plaques.

This discovery by Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Bernard J. Hanseeuw suggests that other neurodegenerative diseases might be contributing to cognitive deterioration.

The research involved 128 participants with an average age of 72, all initially free from memory or thinking problems.

Over approximately seven years, they underwent various brain scans to track amyloid plaques, tau tangles (another Alzheimer’s biomarker), and changes in hippocampus volume. They also underwent annual cognitive assessments.

Findings on Cognitive Decline

The study found a significant correlation between rapid hippocampus shrinkage and faster cognitive decline.

Notably, this decline was independent of amyloid and tau levels in the brain. The hippocampus’s atrophy alone accounted for 10% of the variance in cognitive decline rates among participants.

These findings underscore the complexity of dementia, suggesting that types of dementia other than Alzheimer’s disease could also lead to hippocampus shrinkage and cognitive impairment.

The results could have significant implications for predicting responses to new Alzheimer’s drugs and understanding cognitive decline trajectories.

A notable limitation of the study was the demographic homogeneity of the participants, predominantly highly educated and white. This factor limits the generalizability of the findings to a broader, more diverse population.


Dr. Hanseeuw’s research opens new pathways in understanding cognitive decline, highlighting the importance of considering various neurodegenerative diseases in diagnoses and treatments.

This study is a step forward in developing more effective strategies to combat dementia and related disorders.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about New Alzheimer’s treatment: anti-inflammatory drug may prevent memory loss and findings of The diabetes drug surprise: a possible shield against Alzheimer’s?

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

The research findings can be found in Neurology.

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