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Age-related decline in the brain: a longitudinal study on inter-individual variability of cortical thickness, area, volume, and cognition


Sele, Silvano; Liem, Franziskus; Mérillat, Susan; Jäncke, Lutz (2021). Age-related decline in the brain: a longitudinal study on inter-individual variability of cortical thickness, area, volume, and cognition. NeuroImage, 240:118370.

Abstract

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies have shown that cortical volume declines with age. Although volume is a multiplicative measure consisting of thickness and area, few studies have focused on both its components. Information on decline variability and associations between person-specific changes of different brain metrics, brain regions, and cognition is sparse. In addition, the estimates have often been biased by the measurement error, because three repeated measures are minimally required to separate the measurement error from person-specific changes. With a sample size of N = 231, five repeated measures, and an observational time span of seven years, this study explores the associations between changes of different brain metrics, brain regions, and cognitive abilities in aging. Person-specific changes were obtained by latent growth curve models using Bayesian estimation. Our data indicate that both thickness and area are important contributors to volumetric changes. In most brain regions, area clearly declined on average over the years, while thickness showed only little decline. However, there was also substantial variation around the average slope in thickness and area. The correlation pattern of changes in thickness between brain regions was strong and largely homogenous. The pattern for changes in area was similar but weaker, indicating that factors affecting area may be more region-specific. Changes in thickness and volume were substantially correlated with changes in cognition. In some brain regions, changes in area were also related to changes in cognition. Overall, studying the associations between the trajectories of brain regions in different brain metrics provides insights into the regional heterogeneity of structural changes. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Many studies have described volumetric brain changes in aging. Few studies have focused on both its individual components: area and thickness. Longitudinal studies with three or more time points are highly needed, because they provide more precise average change estimates and, more importantly, allow us to quantify the associations between changes in the different brain metrics, brain regions, and other variables (e.g. cognitive abilities). Studying these associations is important because they can provide information regarding possible underlying factors of these changes. Our study, with a large sample size, five repeated measures, and an observational time span of seven years, provides new insights about the associations between person-specific changes in thickness, area, volume, and cognitive abilities.

Abstract

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies have shown that cortical volume declines with age. Although volume is a multiplicative measure consisting of thickness and area, few studies have focused on both its components. Information on decline variability and associations between person-specific changes of different brain metrics, brain regions, and cognition is sparse. In addition, the estimates have often been biased by the measurement error, because three repeated measures are minimally required to separate the measurement error from person-specific changes. With a sample size of N = 231, five repeated measures, and an observational time span of seven years, this study explores the associations between changes of different brain metrics, brain regions, and cognitive abilities in aging. Person-specific changes were obtained by latent growth curve models using Bayesian estimation. Our data indicate that both thickness and area are important contributors to volumetric changes. In most brain regions, area clearly declined on average over the years, while thickness showed only little decline. However, there was also substantial variation around the average slope in thickness and area. The correlation pattern of changes in thickness between brain regions was strong and largely homogenous. The pattern for changes in area was similar but weaker, indicating that factors affecting area may be more region-specific. Changes in thickness and volume were substantially correlated with changes in cognition. In some brain regions, changes in area were also related to changes in cognition. Overall, studying the associations between the trajectories of brain regions in different brain metrics provides insights into the regional heterogeneity of structural changes. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Many studies have described volumetric brain changes in aging. Few studies have focused on both its individual components: area and thickness. Longitudinal studies with three or more time points are highly needed, because they provide more precise average change estimates and, more importantly, allow us to quantify the associations between changes in the different brain metrics, brain regions, and other variables (e.g. cognitive abilities). Studying these associations is important because they can provide information regarding possible underlying factors of these changes. Our study, with a large sample size, five repeated measures, and an observational time span of seven years, provides new insights about the associations between person-specific changes in thickness, area, volume, and cognitive abilities.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Neurology
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:15 October 2021
Deposited On:21 Sep 2021 12:56
Last Modified:22 Sep 2021 20:00
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1053-8119
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.118370
PubMed ID:34245866

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