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Published Online: 1 November 2016

Structural Covariance Networks and Their Association with Age, Features of Cerebral Small-Vessel Disease, and Cognitive Functioning in Older Persons

Publication: Brain Connectivity
Volume 6, Issue Number 9


Recently, cerebral structural covariance networks (SCNs) have been shown to partially overlap with functional networks. However, although for some of these SCNs a strong association with age is reported, less is known about the association of individual SCNs with separate cognition domains and the potential mediation effect in this of cerebral small vessel disease (SVD). In 219 participants (aged 75–96 years) with mild cognitive deficits, 8 SCNs were defined based on structural covariance of gray matter intensity with independent component analysis on 3DT1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Features of SVD included volume of white matter hyperintensities (WMH), lacunar infarcts, and microbleeds. Associations with SCNs were examined with multiple linear regression analyses, adjusted for age and/or gender. In addition to higher age, which was associated with decreased expression of subcortical, premotor, temporal, and occipital–precuneus networks, the presence of SVD and especially higher WMH volume was associated with a decreased expression in the occipital, cerebellar, subcortical, and anterior cingulate network. The temporal network was associated with memory (p = 0.005), whereas the cerebellar–occipital and occipital–precuneus networks were associated with psychomotor speed (p = 0.002 and p < 0.001). Our data show that a decreased expression of specific networks, including the temporal and occipital lobe and cerebellum, was related to decreased cognitive functioning, independently of age and SVD. This indicates the potential of SCNs in substantiating cognitive functioning in older persons.

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Published In

cover image Brain Connectivity
Brain Connectivity
Volume 6Issue Number 9November 2016
Pages: 681 - 690
PubMed: 27506114


Published in print: November 2016
Published online: 1 November 2016
Published ahead of print: 22 September 2016
Published ahead of production: 10 August 2016


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Jessica C. Foster-Dingley
Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Anne Hafkemeijer
Department of Methodology and Statistics, Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Anne A. van den Berg-Huysmans
Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Justine E.F. Moonen
Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Wouter de Ruijter
Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Anton J.M. de Craen
Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Roos C. van der Mast
Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry, CAPRI-University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium.
Serge A.R.B. Rombouts
Department of Methodology and Statistics, Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Jeroen van der Grond
Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.


Address correspondence to:Jessica C. Foster-DingleyDepartment of PsychiatryLeiden University Medical CenterP.O. Box 103922300 WB LeidenThe Netherlands
E-mail: [email protected]

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No competing financial interests exist.

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