Patterns of cognitive change over time and relationship to age following successful treatment of Cushing's disease

Julie N. Hook*, Bruno Giordani, David E. Schteingart, Kenneth Guire, Jodie Giles, Kelley Ryan, Stephen S. Gebarski, Scott A. Langenecker, Monica N. Starkman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Chronically elevated levels of cortisol have been associated with changes in cognitive functioning and brain morphology. Using Cushing's disease as a model to assess the effects of high levels of cortisol on cognitive functioning, 27 patients with Cushing's disease were examined at baseline and three successive follow-up periods up to 18 months after successful surgical treatment. At all follow-up periods, patients were administered cognitive tests as well as measures of plasma and urinary free cortisol. Structural MRIs and a depression measure were taken at baseline and one-year follow-up. Results showed that there is a specific pattern of significant cognitive and morphological improvement following successful treatment. Verbal fluency and recall showed recovery, although brief attention did not. Age of participants was a significant factor as to when recovery of function occurred; younger patients regained and sustained their improvement in cognitive functioning more quickly than older participants. Improvement in verbal recall also was associated with a decrease in cortisol levels as well as an increase in hippocampal formation volume one year after treatment. Overall, these findings suggest that at least some of the deleterious effects of prolonged hypercortisolemia on cognitive functioning are potentially reversible, up to at least 18 months post treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-29
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Cortisol
  • Elderly
  • Hippocampus
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory
  • Neuropsychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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