Study protocol: The Whitehall II imaging sub-study

Nicola Filippini, Eniko Zsoldos, Rita Haapakoski, Claire E. Sexton, Abda Mahmood, Charlotte L. Allan, Anya Topiwala, Vyara Valkanova, Eric J. Brunner, Martin J. Shipley, Edward Auerbach, Steen Moeller, Kâmil Uǧurbil, Junqian Xu, Essa Yacoub, Jesper Andersson, Janine Bijsterbosch, Stuart Clare, Ludovica Griffanti, Aaron T. HessMark Jenkinson, Karla L. Miller, Gholamreza Salimi-Khorshidi, Stamatios N. Sotiropoulos, Natalie L. Voets, Stephen M. Smith, John R. Geddes, Archana Singh-Manoux, Clare E. Mackay, Mika Kivimäki, Klaus P. Ebmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background: The Whitehall II (WHII) study of British civil servants provides a unique source of longitudinal data to investigate key factors hypothesized to affect brain health and cognitive ageing. This paper introduces the multi-modal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol and cognitive assessment designed to investigate brain health in a random sample of 800 members of the WHII study.Methods/design: A total of 6035 civil servants participated in the WHII Phase 11 clinical examination in 2012-2013. A random sample of these participants was included in a sub-study comprising an MRI brain scan, a detailed clinical and cognitive assessment, and collection of blood and buccal mucosal samples for the characterisation of immune function and associated measures. Data collection for this sub-study started in 2012 and will be completed by 2016. The participants, for whom social and health records have been collected since 1985, were between 60-85 years of age at the time the MRI study started. Here, we describe the pre-specified clinical and cognitive assessment protocols, the state-of-the-art MRI sequences and latest pipelines for analyses of this sub-study.Discussion: The integration of cutting-edge MRI techniques, clinical and cognitive tests in combination with retrospective data on social, behavioural and biological variables during the preceding 25 years from a well-established longitudinal epidemiological study (WHII cohort) will provide a unique opportunity to examine brain structure and function in relation to age-related diseases and the modifiable and non-modifiable factors affecting resilience against and vulnerability to adverse brain changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number159
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 30 2014


  • Affective disorders
  • Connectome
  • Dementia
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Epidemiology
  • Functional MRI
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Neuropsychology
  • Resting state brain networks
  • White matter


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