Age-related decrease of functional connectivity additional to gray matter atrophy in a network for movement initiation

Brain Struct Funct. 2015 Mar;220(2):999-1012. doi: 10.1007/s00429-013-0696-2. Epub 2014 Jan 8.


Healthy aging is accompanied by a decrease in cognitive and motor capacities. In a network associated with movement initiation, we investigated age-related changes of functional connectivity (FC) as well as regional atrophy in a sample of 232 healthy subjects (age range 18-85 years). To this end, voxel-based morphometry and whole-brain resting-state FC were analyzed for the supplementary motor area (SMA), anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC) and bilateral striatum (Str). To assess the specificity of age-related effects, bilateral primary sensorimotor cortex (S1/M1) closely associated with motor execution was used as control seeds. All regions showed strong reduction of gray matter volume with age. Corrected for this regional atrophy, the FC analysis revealed an age × seed interaction for each of the bilateral Str nodes against S1/M1 with consistent age-related decrease in FC with bilateral caudate nucleus and anterior putamen. Specific age-dependent FC decline of SMA was found in bilateral central insula and the adjacent frontal operculum. aMCC showed exclusive age-related decoupling from the anterior cingulate motor area. The present study demonstrates network as well as node-specific age-dependent FC decline of the SMA and aMCC to highly integrative cortical areas involved in cognitive motor control. FC decrease in addition to gray matter atrophy within the Str may provide a substrate for the declining motor control in elderly. Finally, age-related FC changes in both the network for movement initiation as well as the network for motor execution are not explained by regional atrophy in the healthy aging brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging* / pathology
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Atrophy
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Gray Matter / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Motor Skills*
  • Nerve Net / pathology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult