The striatum, the hippocampus, and short-term memory binding: volumetric analysis of the subcortical grey matter's role in mild cognitive impairment

Maria C. Valdés Hernández, Rupert Clark, Szu-Han Wang, Federica Guazzo, Clara Calia, Vivek Pattan, John Starr, Sergio Della Sala, Mario Alfredo Parra

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Background: Deficits in short-term memory (STM) binding are a distinguishing feature of preclinical stages leading to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the neuroanatomical correlates of conjunctive STM binding are largely unexplored. Here we examine the possible association between the volumes of hippocampi, parahippocampal gyri, and grey matter within the subcortical structures – all found to have foci that seemingly correlate with basic daily living activities in AD patients - with cognitive tests related to conjunctive STM binding. Materials and methods: Hippocampal, thalamic, parahippocampal and corpus striatum volumes were semi-automatically quantified in brain magnetic resonance images from 25 cognitively normal people and 21 patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) at high risk of AD progression, who undertook a battery of cognitive tests and the short-term memory binding test. Associations were assessed using linear regression models and group differences were assessed using the Mann-Whitney U test. Results: Hippocampal and parahippocampal gyrus volumes differed between MCI and control groups. Although the grey matter volume in the globus pallidus (r=-0.71, p<0.001) and parahippocampal gyry (r=-0.63, p<0.05) correlated with a STM binding task in the MCI group, only the former remained associated with STM binding deficits in MCI patients, after correcting for age, gender and years of education (β=-0.56,P=0.042) although with borderline significance. Conclusions: Loss of hippocampal volume plays no role in the processing of STM binding. Structures within the basal ganglia, namely the globus pallidus, could be part of the extrahippocampal network supporting binding. Replication of this study in large samples is now needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102158
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Early online date29 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2020


  • basal ganglia
  • MRI
  • ageing
  • cognition
  • memory binding
  • hippocampus
  • globus pallidus

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