Aging Effects on Whole-Brain Functional Connectivity in Adults Free of Cognitive and Psychiatric Disorders

Cereb Cortex. 2016 Sep;26(9):3851-65. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv190. Epub 2015 Aug 26.


Aging is associated with decreased resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) within the default mode network (DMN), but most functional imaging studies have restricted the analysis to specific brain regions or networks, a strategy not appropriate to describe system-wide changes. Moreover, few investigations have employed operational psychiatric interviewing procedures to select participants; this is an important limitation since mental disorders are prevalent and underdiagnosed and can be associated with RSFC abnormalities. In this study, resting-state fMRI was acquired from 59 adults free of cognitive and psychiatric disorders according to standardized criteria and based on extensive neuropsychological and clinical assessments. We tested for associations between age and whole-brain RSFC using Partial Least Squares, a multivariate technique. We found that normal aging is not only characterized by decreased RSFC within the DMN but also by ubiquitous increases in internetwork positive correlations and focal internetwork losses of anticorrelations (involving mainly connections between the DMN and the attentional networks). Our results reinforce the notion that the aging brain undergoes a dedifferentiation processes with loss of functional diversity. These findings advance the characterization of healthy aging effects on RSFC and highlight the importance of adopting a broad, system-wide perspective to analyze brain connectivity.

Keywords: brain; elderly; functional magnetic resonance imaging; normal aging; resting state.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Connectome / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / pathology
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Rest / physiology
  • Young Adult