Anatomic correlation of the mini-mental state examination: A voxel-based morphometric study in older adults

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The clinical utility of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and its shorter version (SMMSE) is still debated. There is a need to better understand the neuroanatomical correlates of these cognitive tests. The objective of this cross-sectional study was to determine whether lower MMSE and SMMSE scores correlated with focal brain volume reduction in older adults. Participants from the GAIT study (n = 207; mean, 70.9±5.9 years; 57% female; mean MMSE 26.2±3.9; mean SMMSE 5.1±1.1) were evaluated using the MMSE and SMMSE and received a 1.5-Tesla MRI scan of the brain. Cortical gray and white matter subvolumes were automatically segmented using Statistical Parametric Mapping. Age, gender, education level, and total intracranial volume were included as potential confounders. We found correlations between the MMSE score and specific cortical regions of the limbic system including the hippocampus, amygdala, cingulate gyrus, and parahippocampal gyrus, independently of the diagnostic category (i.e., mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer disease or controls). Regarding correlations with the SMMSE score, only one cluster in the left hippocampus was identified, which overlapped with the cluster that was positively correlated with the MMSE score. There were no correlations with the volume of white matter. In conclusion, worse MMSE and SMMSE scores were associated with gray matter atrophy mainly in the limbic system. This finding highlights that atrophy of specific brain regions are related to performance on the MMSE and the SMMSE tests, and provides new insights into the cognitive function probed by these tests.

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