Hippocampal dysfunction in cured Cushing's syndrome patients, detected by 1H-MR-spectroscopy
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Background Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) is a sensitive, noninvasive imaging technique capable of measuring brain metabolites in vivo. Chronic exposure to endogenous hypercortisolism in Cushing's syndrome (CS) is associated with negative effects on memory and hippocampal volumes, even after biochemical cure. Objective To investigate metabolites in the hippocampi of CS patients and controls, using 1H-MRS. Patients and methods Eighteen right-handed cured CS patients (age 44·8 ± 12·5 years, 12·6 ± 3·8 years of education) and 18 right-handed healthy controls, matched for age (40·0 ± 11·9) and years of education (14·4 ± 3·8), underwent 3-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (3T MRI) and 1H-MRS including the head of each hippocampus. Concentrations of Glu (Glutamate), Glx (Glutamate + Glutamine), NAA (N-Acetyl-aspartate), total NAA (N-Acetyl-aspartate + N-Acetyl-aspartyl- Glutamate), Cho (Glycerophosphocholine and Phosphocholine compounds), Cr (Creatine) and MI (mionositol) were measured (mmol/l). Hippocampal volumes (mm3) were additionally calculated using an automated procedure (FreeSurfer). Results CS patients had lower NAA than controls in the left and right hippocampus (5·2 ± 1·0 vs 6·1 ± 0·7, P < 0·05; 4·9 ± 0·8 vs 6·1 ± 0·6, P < 0·001, respectively), and lower total NAA on the right side (5·7 ± 0·9 vs 6·3 ± 0·9, P < 0·05), suggesting neuronal dysfunction/loss. CS patients had higher Glx than controls in both hippocampi (10·4 ± 1·9 vs 8·6 ± 1·4, P < 0·01; 9·9 ± 1·6 vs 8·9 ± 1·3, P < 0·05, respectively), suggesting glial proliferation, as a repair mechanism after neuronal dysfunction. No differences were found in the other brain metabolites, and there were no differences in left (3815·78 ± 502·96) and right (3980·75 ± 369·44) total hippocampal volumes between CS patients and controls (3945·08 ± 408·90 and 4108·39 ± 365·11, respectively). Conclusion Persistently abnormal metabolites are evidenced in the hippocampi of CS patients despite endocrine cure. These functional alterations could be early markers of glucocorticoid neurotoxicity, preceding hippocampal volume reduction. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.