Physiology & Behavior

Srishti Shrestha, Michael S. Bloom*, Recai Yucel*, Richard F. Seegal, Robert Rej, Robert J. McCaffrey, Edward F. Fitzgerald


Abstract: Overt thyroid dysfunction is recognized as a risk factor for neuropsychological deficits in aging populations, yet evidence for how changes in levels of circulatory thyroid hormones impact specific neuropsychological domains is limited. Here we report cross-sectional associations between serum thyroid hormone concentrations and several neuropsychological function domains among men and women aged 55–74 years. We administered neuropsychological tests to assess memory, learning, executive function, measures of attention, visuospatial function, affective state, and motor function. Multivariable linear regression analyses were performed adjusting for age, sex, education, and cigarette smoking. Effects were reported as differences in test scores per one interquartile range (IQR) increase in hormone concentration. Higher total thyroxine (T4) and free thyroxine (fT4) were associated with improved visuospatial function, as measured by Block Design Subtest total scores; associated increments per IQR differences in T4 and fT4 were 15% and 19%, respectively (false discovery rate q-values < 0.05). We also detected statistical interactions between age and fT4 for effects in tasks of memory and learning. Concurrent increases in age and fT4 were associated with deficits in memory and learning as measured by California Verbal Learning Test subtests (10% and 16% deficits in t-score and short delay free recall score, respectively). Our findings suggest that changes in thyroid hormones may have important implications for neuropsychological function in aging populations. Further large-scale studies with comprehensive thyroid function and neuropsychological outcome assessments are warranted to confirm these results.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates and Staff