Relationship between white matter fractional anisotropy and other indices of cerebral health in normal aging: tract-based spatial statistics study of aging

Neuroimage. 2007 Apr 1;35(2):478-87. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.12.021. Epub 2006 Dec 23.


White matter (WM) fractional anisotropy (FA) is thought to be related to WM integrity and decline in FA is often used as an index of decreasing WM health. However, the relationship of FA to other structural indices of cerebral health has not been well studied. We hypothesized that the decline in WM health will be associated with changes in several other indices of cerebral health. In this manuscript we studied the correlation between whole-brain/hemispheric/corpus callosum FA and gray matter (GM) thickness, sulcal span, and the volume of T2-hyperintense WM in a group of 31 healthy aging individuals (12 males/19 females) aged 57-82 years old. Individual subjects' FA measures were calculated from diffusion tracing imaging (DTI) data using tract-based spatial statistics--an approach specifically designed and validated for voxel-wise multi-subject FA analysis. Age-controlled correlation analysis showed that whole-brain average FA values were significantly and positively correlated with the subject's average GM thickness and negatively correlated with hyperintense WM volume. Intra-hemispheric correlations between FA and other measures of cerebral health had generally greater effect sizes than inter-hemispheric correction, with correlation between left FA and left GM thickness being the most significant (r=0.6, p<0.01). Regional analysis of FA values showed that late-myelinating fiber tracts of the genu of corpus callosum had higher association with other cerebral health indices. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that late-myelinating regions of the brain bear the brunt of age-related degenerative changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged