Hippocampal subfields differentially correlate with chronic pain in older adults

Ali Ezzati, Molly E. Zimmerman, Mindy J. Katz, Erin E. Sundermann, Jeremy L. Smith, Michael L. Lipton, Richard B. Lipton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Although previous studies have demonstrated that the hippocampus plays a role in pain processing, the role of hippocampal subfields is uncertain. The goal of this study was to examine the relationship between hippocampal subfield volumes and chronic pain in nondemented older adults. The study sample included 86 community-residing adults age 70 or older who were free of dementia and recruited from the Einstein Aging Study. Chronic pain was defined as pain over the last 3 months, that was moderate or severe (minimum rating of 4 out of 10) most, or all of the time. Hippocampal subfield volumes were estimated using FreeSurfer software. We modeled the association between chronic pain and hippocampal and subfield volume using linear regression. The sample had a mean age of 80 and was 58% female. Chronic pain, present in 55% of the sample, was associated with smaller right and total hippocampal volumes, particularly in women, after adjusting for age, education, and intracranial volume (eTICV). In addition, in women, volume was significantly reduced in participants with chronic pain in right CA2-3 (β=-0.35, p=0.010), right CA4-DG (β=-0.35, p=0.011), left presubiculum (β=-0.29, p=0.030), and left fimbria (β=-0.30, p=0.023). In men, chronic pain was not associated with the volume of any of the hippocampal subfield volumes. Chronic pain in women is associated with a reduction in the volume of right hippocampus and also selected hippocampal subfields. Future studies should clarify the mechanisms underlying the association between regional hippocampal volumes and chronic pain, particularly in women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalBrain research
StatePublished - Jul 21 2014


  • Chronic pain
  • Hippocampal subfields
  • Hippocampal volume
  • MRI
  • Older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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