Normal age-related brain morphometric changes: nonuniformity across cortical thickness, surface area and gray matter volume?

Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Mar;33(3):617.e1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2010.07.013. Epub 2010 Aug 23.


Normal aging is accompanied by global as well as regional structural changes. While these age-related changes in gray matter volume have been extensively studied, less has been done using newer morphological indexes, such as cortical thickness and surface area. To this end, we analyzed structural images of 216 healthy volunteers, ranging from 18 to 87 years of age, using a surface-based automated parcellation approach. Linear regressions of age revealed a concomitant global age-related reduction in cortical thickness, surface area and volume. Cortical thickness and volume collectively confirmed the vulnerability of the prefrontal cortex, whereas in other cortical regions, such as in the parietal cortex, thickness was the only measure sensitive to the pronounced age-related atrophy. No cortical regions showed more surface area reduction than the global average. The distinction between these morphological measures may provide valuable information to dissect age-related structural changes of the brain, with each of these indexes probably reflecting specific histological changes occurring during aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Atrophy / etiology
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Degeneration / etiology
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology*
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Young Adult