Global and regional annual brain volume loss rates in physiological aging

J Neurol. 2017 Mar;264(3):520-528. doi: 10.1007/s00415-016-8374-y. Epub 2017 Jan 4.


The objective is to estimate average global and regional percentage brain volume loss per year (BVL/year) of the physiologically ageing brain. Two independent, cross-sectional single scanner cohorts of healthy subjects were included. The first cohort (n = 248) was acquired at the Medical Prevention Center (MPCH) in Hamburg, Germany. The second cohort (n = 316) was taken from the Open Access Series of Imaging Studies (OASIS). Brain parenchyma (BP), grey matter (GM), white matter (WM), corpus callosum (CC), and thalamus volumes were calculated. A non-parametric technique was applied to fit the resulting age-volume data. For each age, the BVL/year was derived from the age-volume curves. The resulting BVL/year curves were compared between the two cohorts. For the MPCH cohort, the BVL/year curve of the BP was an increasing function starting from 0.20% at the age of 35 years increasing to 0.52% at 70 years (corresponding values for GM ranged from 0.32 to 0.55%, WM from 0.02 to 0.47%, CC from 0.07 to 0.48%, and thalamus from 0.25 to 0.54%). Mean absolute difference between BVL/year trajectories across the age range of 35-70 years was 0.02% for BP, 0.04% for GM, 0.04% for WM, 0.11% for CC, and 0.02% for the thalamus. Physiological BVL/year rates were remarkably consistent between the two cohorts and independent from the scanner applied. Average BVL/year was clearly age and compartment dependent. These results need to be taken into account when defining cut-off values for pathological annual brain volume loss in disease models, such as multiple sclerosis.

Keywords: Brain atrophy; Brain volumetry; Grey matter; Magnetic resonance imaging; Multiple sclerosis; Physiological aging; Thalamus; White matter.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Atrophy
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology
  • Young Adult