CSF dynamics as a predictor of cognitive progression

Petrice M. Cogswell, Stephen D. Weigand, Heather J. Wiste, Jeffrey L. Gunter, Jonathan Graff-Radford, David T. Jones, Christopher G. Schwarz, Matthew L. Senjem, David S. Knopman, Ronald C. Petersen, Clifford R. Jack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disproportionately enlarged subarachnoid-space hydrocephalus (DESH), characterized by tight high convexity CSF spaces, ventriculomegaly, and enlarged Sylvian fissures, is thought to be an indirect marker of a CSF dynamics disorder. The clinical significance of DESH with regard to cognitive decline in a community setting is not yet well defined. The goal of this work is to determine if DESH is associated with cognitive decline. Participants in the population-based Mayo Clinic Study of Aging (MCSA) who met the following criteria were included: age ≥ 65 years, 3T MRI, and diagnosis of cognitively unimpaired or mild cognitive impairment at enrollment as well as at least one follow-up visit with cognitive testing. A support vector machine based method to detect the DESH imaging features on T1-weighted MRI was used to calculate a “DESH score”, with positive scores indicating a more DESH-like imaging pattern. For the participants who were cognitively unimpaired at enrollment, a Cox proportional hazards model was fit with time defined as years from enrollment to first diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or dementia, or as years to last known cognitively unimpaired diagnosis for those who did not progress. Linear mixed effects models were fit among all participants to estimate annual change in cognitive z scores for each domain (memory, attention, language, and visuospatial) and a global z score. For all models, covariates included age, sex, education, APOE genotype, cortical thickness, white matter hyperintensity volume, and total intracranial volume. The hazard of progression to cognitive impairment was an estimated 12% greater for a DESH score of +1 versus −1 (HR 1.12, 95% CI 0.97–1.31, p = 0.11). Global and attention cognition declined 0.015 (95% CI 0.005–0.025) and 0.016 (95% CI 0.005–0.028) z/year more, respectively, for a DESH score of +1 vs −1 (p = 0.01 and p = 0.02), with similar, though not statistically significant DESH effects in the other cognitive domains. Imaging features of disordered CSF dynamics are an independent predictor of subsequent cognitive decline in the MCSA, among other well-known factors including age, cortical thickness, and APOE status. Therefore, since DESH contributes to cognitive decline and is present in the general population, identifying individuals with DESH features may be important clinically as well as for selection in clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117899
StatePublished - May 15 2021


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Disproportionately enlarged subarachnoid-space hydrocephalus
  • MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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