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Title: Divergent patterns of cognitive deficits and structural brain alterations between older adults in mixed-sex and same-sex relationships
Authors: Manca, R
Correro, AN
Gauthreaux, K
Flatt, JD
Keywords: cognitive decline;parahippocampal gyrus;same-sex relationship;sexual minority;National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center
Issue Date: 2-Sep-2022
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Citation: Manca R. et. al. (2022) 'Divergent patterns of cognitive deficits and structural brain alterations between older adults in mixed-sex and same-sex relationships,' Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 16, 909868, pp.1-14. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.909868
Abstract: Copyright © 2022 Manca, Correro, Gauthreaux and Flatt. Background: Sexual minority (SM) older adults experience mental health disparities. Psychiatric disorders and neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are risk factors for cognitive decline. Although older people in same-sex (SSR) compared to mixed-sex relationships (MSR) perform more poorly on cognitive screening tests, prior studies found no differences in rates of dementia diagnosis or neuropsychological profiles. We sought to explore the role of NPS on neurocognitive outcomes for SM populations. We compared cognitive performance and structural brain parameters of older adults in SSR and MSR. Methods: Data were originally collected at Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers (ADRCs). Inclusion criteria were: age of 55+ years, a study partner identified as a spouse/partner, and availability of T1-MRI brain volumes/thickness. Participants were labeled as either SSR or MSR based on their/their co-participant's reported sex. We identified 1,073 participants (1,037 MSR−555 cognitively unimpaired [CU]; 36 SSR−23 CU) with structural MRI data, Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE), and Neuropsychiatric Inventory Questionnaire (NPI-Q) scores. A subset of the overall sample completed comprehensive neuropsychological assessment (n = 939; 908 MSR−494 CU; 31 SSR−22 CU). Covariates included in statistical models were age, sex, education, total intracranial volume, and apolipoprotein E genotype. Results: Multivariate general linear models showed significant diagnosis-by-relationship interaction effects on the left parahippocampal gyrus volume. After stratification by relationship group, only cognitively impaired (CI) MSR had significantly smaller left parahippocampal volumes than MSR-CU. The SSR group showed better episodic memory performance. Severity of neuropsychiatric symptoms was negatively associated with volume/thickness of bilateral fronto-temporal areas and with MMSE scores, predominantly in the MSR group. Conclusion: In our study, MSR participants presented with a more compromised cognitive profile than SSR participants. MSR-CI participants showed significantly smaller left medio-temporal volumes, a neural signature of AD. Neuropsychiatric symptoms predicted smaller fronto-temporal volumes in the MSR more consistently than in the SSR group. These findings may be due to unexplored protective factors against cognitive decline in SM elders. Indeed, social support has been proposed as a protective factor warranting future investigation.
Description: Data availability statement: Publicly available datasets were analyzed in this study. These data can be found at:
Other Identifiers: 909868
Appears in Collections:Dept of Life Sciences Research Papers

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