Hippocampal metabolites in asthma and their implications for cognitive function

Juliet L. Kroll, Ashton M. Steele, Amy E. Pinkham, Changho Choi, David A. Khan, Sheenal V. Patel, Justin R. Chen, Sina Aslan, E. Sherwood Brown, Thomas Ritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Emerging research indicates that individuals with asthma have an increased risk of cognitive impairment, yet the associations of asthma with neural correlates of memory remain relatively unknown. The hippocampus is the predominant neural structure involved in memory, and alterations in the hippocampal metabolic profile are observed in individuals with mild cognitive impairment. We therefore hypothesized that individuals with asthma may have altered hippocampal metabolites compared to healthy controls. Structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) were used to compare hippocampal volume and metabolites of otherwise healthy adults with and without asthma (N = 40), and to study the association of these measures with cognitive function and asthma-related variables. Participants underwent 3-Tesla sMRI and 1H-MRS, with the volume of interest placed in the left hippocampus to measure levels of N-acetylaspartate (NAA), glutamate (Glu), creatine (Cr), and myo-inositol (MI), as indicators of neuronal viability, cellular activity, cellular energy reserve, as well as glial activation. Individuals with asthma had lower hippocampal NAA compared to healthy controls. For all participants, poorer cognitive function was associated with reduced NAA and Glu. For individuals with asthma, poorer cognitive function was associated with reduced disease control. Additionally, short-acting rescue bronchodilator use was associated with significantly lower NAA, and Glu, whereas inhaled corticosteroid use was related to significantly higher Cr and in tendency higher NAA and Glu. All findings controlled for left hippocampal volume, which was not different between groups. These findings highlight that asthma and/or its treatment may affect hippocampal chemistry. It is possible that the observed reductions in hippocampal metabolites in younger individuals with asthma may precede cognitive and hippocampal structural deficits observed in older individuals with asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-221
Number of pages9
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • H-MRS
  • Asthma
  • Cognition
  • Creatine
  • Glutamate
  • Hippocampus
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Structural magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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