Age-related alterations in the modular organization of structural cortical network by using cortical thickness from MRI

Neuroimage. 2011 May 1;56(1):235-45. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.01.010. Epub 2011 Jan 14.


Normal aging is accompanied by various cognitive functional declines. Recent studies have revealed disruptions in the coordination of large-scale functional brain networks such as the default mode network in advanced aging. However, organizational alterations of the structural brain network at the system level in aging are still poorly understood. Here, using cortical thickness, we investigated the modular organization of the cortical structural networks in 102 young and 97 normal aging adults. Brain networks for both cohorts displayed a modular organization overlapping with functional domains such as executive and auditory/language processing. However, compared with the modular organization of young adults, the aging group demonstrated a significantly reduced modularity that might be indicative of reduced functional segregation in the aging brain. More importantly, the aging brain network exhibited reduced intra-/inter-module connectivity in modules corresponding to the executive function and the default mode network of young adults, which might be associated with the decline of cognitive functions in aging. Finally, we observed age-associated alterations in the regional characterization in terms of their intra/inter-module connectivity. Our results indicate that aging is associated with an altered modular organization in the structural brain networks and provide new evidence for disrupted integrity in the large-scale brain networks that underlie cognition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / pathology*
  • Young Adult