Brain lesions, hypertension and cognitive aging in the 1921 and 1936 Aberdeen birth cohorts

Alison D. Murray, Roger T. Staff, Christopher J. McNeil, Sima Salarirad, John M Starr, Ian J. Deary, Lawrence Jeffrey Whalley

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25 Citations (Scopus)


The objectives of this study are to model the relative effects of positive (childhood intelligence) and negative (magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-
derived white matter hyperintensities (WMH)) predictors of late-life intelligence in two well-characterised normal cohorts aged 68 and 78 and to measure the
influence of hypertension on WMH and lifelong cognitive change. The Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 and 1947 tested the intelligence of almost all school children at age 11. One hundred and one participants born in 1921 and 233 participants born in 1936 had brain MRI, with measurement of WMH using
Scheltens‘ scale, and tests of late-life fluid intelligence. Structural equation models of the effect of childhood intelligence and brain WMH on the general intelligence factor ‘g’ in late life in the two samples were constructed using AMOS 18. Similar models were constructed to test the effect of hypertension on WMH and lifelong cognitive change. Fluid intelligence scores were lower
and WMH scores were higher in the older samples. Hypertensive participants in both samples had more WMH than normotensive participants. The positive
influence of childhood intelligence on ‘g’ was greater in the younger sample. The negative effect of WMH on ‘g’ was linear and greater in the older sample due to greater WMH burden. The negative effect of hypertension on lifelong cognitive ageing was all mediated via MRIderived brain WMH. The positive relationship between childhood and late-life intelligence decreases with age. The negative relationship between WMH and late-life intelligence is linear and increases with age
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-459
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date22 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the participants of the Aberdeen 1921 and 1936 Birth Cohorts, without whom this research would not have been possible. Image acquisition and image analysis for ABC21 and ABC36
were funded by The Chief Scientist Office, Scottish Executive and Alzheimer’s Research Trust (now Alzheimer’s Research UK) respectively.
Drs Murray, Staff, McNeil and Salarirad are part of SINAPSE, the Scottish Imaging Network
Disclosures Dr Alison D Murray, Dr Roger T Staff, Dr Chris J McNeil, Dr Sima Salarirad, Prof John M Starr Prof Ian J Deary and Prof Lawrence J Whalley report no disclosures


  • ageing
  • white matter hyperintensity
  • cohort study
  • fluid intelligence
  • cognitive decline
  • MRI


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