Recent studies have indicated a role for the thalamus in attention, arousal and the capacity to perform tasks of speeded information processing. The present study evaluated the role of the thalamus in age-related cognitive decline by investigating the correlations between thalamic volume, cognition and age. This was done in 57 healthy subjects ranging from 21 to 82 years of age. All subjects underwent neurocognitive testing with information processing tests and structural magnetic resonance imaging. A significant decrease in volume of the thalamus with increasing age was found, relatively stronger than and independent of the decrease of total brain volume. The decrease of thalamic volume was apparent before the onset of loss of volume of the total brain. Over the age-span studied, the thalamic decrease in volume correlated with the diminished performance on tests of cognitive speed. Additionally, in young and middle-aged, but not in old subjects, the size of the thalamus predicted performance on tasks that require cognitive speed.
van der Werf, Y. D., Tisserand, D. J., Visser, P. J., Hofman, P. A. M., Vuurman, E. F. P. M., Uylings, H. B., & Jolles, J. (2001). Thalamic volume predicts performance on tests of cognitive speed and decreases in healthy aging. A magnetic resonance imaging-based volumetric analysis. Cognitive Brain Research, 11, 377-85. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0926-6410(01)00010-6