Changing topological patterns in normal aging using large-scale structural networks

Neurobiol Aging. 2012 May;33(5):899-913. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2010.06.022. Epub 2010 Aug 17.


We examine normal aging from the perspective of topological patterns of structural brain networks constructed from two healthy age cohorts 20 years apart. Based on graph theory, we constructed structural brain networks using 90 cortical and subcortical regions as a set of nodes and the interregional correlations of grey matter volumes across individual brains as edges between nodes, and further analyzed the topological properties of the age-specific networks. We found that the brain structural networks of both cohorts had small-world architecture, and the older cohort (N = 374; mean age = 66.6 years, range 64-68) had lower global efficiency but higher local clustering in the brain structural networks compared with the younger cohort (N = 428; mean age = 46.7, range 44-48). The older cohort had reduced hemispheric asymmetry and lower centrality of certain brain regions, such as the bilateral hippocampus, bilateral insula, left posterior cingulated, and right Heschl gyrus, but that of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) was not different. These structural network differences may provide the basis for changes in functional connectivity and indeed cognitive function as we grow older.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Young Adult