Minimal Changes Of Thyroid Axis Activity Influence Brain Functions In Young Females Affected By Subclinical Hypothyroidism

Danilo Menicucci, Laura Sebastiani, Alessandro Comparini, Alessandro Pingitore, Brunello Ghelarducci, Antonio L'Abbate, Giorgio Iervasi, Angelo Gemignani


There is evidence of an association between thyroid hormones (TH) alterations and mental dysfunctions related to procedural and working memory functions, but the physiological link between these domains is still under debate, also for the presence of age as a confounding factor. Thus, we investigated the TH tuning of cerebral functions in young females affected by the borderline condition of subclinical hypothyroidism (SH) and in euthyroid females of the same age.

The experiment consisted in the characterization of the affective state and cognitive abilities of the subjects by means of specific neuropsychological questionnaires, and of brain activity (EEG) in resting state and during the passive viewing of emotional video-clips. We found that SH had i) increased anxiety for Physical Danger; ii) better scores for both Mental Control and no-working-memory-related functions; iii) association between anxiety for Physical Danger and fT4 levels. Thus, in young adults, SH increases inward attention and paradoxically improves some cognitive functions. In addition, self-assessed questionnaires showed that SH had a greater susceptibility to unpleasant emotional stimulation. As for EEG data, SH compared to controls showed: i) reduction of alpha activity and of gamma left lateralization in resting state; ii) increased, and lateralized to the right, beta2 activity during stimulations. Both results indicated that SH have higher levels of arousal and greater susceptibility to negative emotion than controls.

In conclusion, our study indicates that minimal changes in TH levels produce subtle but well-defined mental changes, thus encouraging further studies for the prediction of pathology evolution.


Subclinical hypothyroidism, cognitive functions, emotion processing, EEG

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