Although copper plays a critical role in normal brain functions and development, it is known that excess copper causes toxicity. Here we investigated the associations of copper levels in the hair with regional gray matter volume (rGMV), mean diffusivity (MD), and cognitive differences in a study cohort of 924 healthy young adults. Our findings showed that high copper levels were associated mostly with low cognitive abilities (low scores on the intelligence test consisting of complex speed tasks, involving reasoning task, a complex arithmetic task, and a reading comprehension task) as well as lower reverse Stroop interference, high rGMV over widespread areas of the brain [mainly including the bilateral lateral and medial parietal cortices, medial temporal structures (amygdala, hippocampus, and parahippocampal gyrus), middle cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, insula, perisylvian areas, inferior temporal lobe, temporal pole, occipital lobes, and supplementary motor area], as well as high MD of the right substantia nigra and bilateral hippocampus, which are indicative of low density in brain tissues. These results suggest that copper levels are associated with mostly aberrant cognitive functions, greater rGMV in extensive areas, greater MD (which are indicative of low density in brain tissues) in subcortical structures in the healthy young adults, possibly reflecting copper’s complex roles in neural mechanisms.
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