Structural Basal Ganglia Correlates of Subjective Fatigue in Middle-Aged and Older Adults

Nikhil Banerjee, Sonya Kaur, Anita Saporta, Sang H. Lee, Noam Alperin, Bonnie E. Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Fatigue is among the most common complaints in community-dwelling older adults, yet its etiology is poorly understood. Based on models implicating frontostriatal pathways in fatigue pathogenesis, we hypothesized that smaller basal ganglia volume would be associated with higher levels of subjective fatigue and reduced set-shifting in middle-aged and older adults without dementia or other neurologic conditions. Methods: Forty-eight non-demented middle-aged and older adults (Mage = 68.1, SD = 9.4; MMMSE = 27.3, SD = 1.9) completed the Fatigue Symptom Inventory, set-shifting measures, and structural MRI as part of a clinical evaluation for subjective cognitive complaints. Associations were examined cross-sectionally. Results: Linear regression analyses showed that smaller normalized basal ganglia volumes were associated with more severe fatigue (β = −.29, P =.041) and poorer Trail Making Test B-A (TMT B-A) performance (β =.30, P =.033) controlling for depression, sleep quality, vascular risk factors, and global cognitive status. Putamen emerged as a key structure linked with both fatigue (r = −.43, P =.003) and TMT B-A (β =.35, P =.021). The link between total basal ganglia volume and reduced TMT B-A was particularly strong in clinically fatigued patients. Conclusion: This study is among the first to show that reduced basal ganglia volume is an important neurostructural correlate of subjective fatigue in physically able middle-aged and older adults without neurological conditions. Findings suggest that fatigue and rapid set-shifting deficits may share common neural underpinnings involving the basal ganglia, and provide a framework for studying the neuropathogenesis and treatment of subjective fatigue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • basal ganglia
  • fatigue
  • older adults
  • putamen
  • set-shifting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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