Neural correlates of age-related changes in cortical neurophysiology

Neuroimage. 2008 May 1;40(4):1772-81. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.01.039. Epub 2008 Feb 7.


Functional imaging studies of cortical motor systems in humans have demonstrated age-related reorganisation often attributed to anatomical and physiological changes. In this study we investigated whether aspects of brain activity during a motor task were influenced not only by age, but also by neurophysiological parameters of the motor cortex contralateral to the moving hand. Twenty seven right-handed volunteers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging whilst performing repetitive isometric right hand grips in which the target force was parametrically varied between 15 and 55% of each subject's own maximum grip force. For each subject we characterised two orthogonal parameters, B(G) (average task-related activity for all hand grips) and B(F) (the degree to which task-related activity co-varied with peak grip force). We used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to assess task-related changes in interhemispheric inhibition from left to right motor cortex (IHIc) and to perform measures relating to left motor cortex excitability during activation of the right hand. Firstly, we found that B(G) in right (ipsilateral) motor cortex was greater with increasing values of age(2) and IHIc. Secondly, B(F) in left ventral premotor cortex was greater in older subjects and in those in whom contralateral M1 was less responsive to TMS stimulation. In both cases, neurophysiological parameters accounted for variability in brain responses over and above that explained by ageing. These results indicate that neurophysiological markers may be better indicators of biological ageing than chronological age and point towards the mechanisms by which reconfiguration of distributed brain networks occurs in the face of degenerative changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / growth & development*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Nerve Net / growth & development
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation


  • Oxygen