Age-related changes in brain structure result from a complex interplay among various neurobiological processes, which may contribute to more complex trajectories than what can be described by simple linear or quadratic models. We used a nonparametric smoothing spline approach to delineate cross-sectionally estimated age trajectories of the volume of 17 neuroanatomic structures in 1100 healthy adults (18-94 years). Accelerated estimated decline in advanced age characterized some structures, for example hippocampus, but was not the norm. For most areas, 1 or 2 critical ages were identified, characterized by changes in the estimated rate of change. One-year follow-up data from 142 healthy older adults (60-91 years) confirmed the existence of estimated change from the cross-sectional analyses for all areas except 1 (caudate). The cross-sectional and the longitudinal analyses agreed well on the rank order of age effects on specific brain structures (Spearman ρ = 0.91). The main conclusions are that most brain structures do not follow a simple path throughout adult life and that accelerated decline in high age is not the norm of healthy brain aging.
Keywords: Aging; Amygdala; Atrophy; Cerebral cortex; Hippocampus; Longitudinal; Magnetic resonance imaging; Thalamus; Trajectory; White matter.
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