Healthy and Pathological Brain Aging: From the Perspective of Oscillations, Functional Connectivity, and Signal Complexity

Neuropsychobiology. 2017;75(4):151-161. doi: 10.1159/000486870. Epub 2018 Feb 21.


Healthy aging is associated with impairment in cognitive information processing. Several neuroimaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography and near-infrared spectroscopy have been used to explore healthy and pathological aging by relying on hemodynamic or metabolic changes that occur in response to brain activity. Since electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) are able to measure neural activity directly with a high temporal resolution of milliseconds, these neurophysiological techniques are particularly important to investigate the dynamics of brain activity underlying neurocognitive aging. It is well known that age is a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), and that synaptic dysfunction represents an early sign of this disease associated with hallmark neuropathological findings. However, the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying AD are not fully elucidated. This review addresses healthy and pathological brain aging from a neurophysiological perspective, focusing on oscillatory activity changes during the resting state, event-related potentials and stimulus-induced oscillatory responses during cognitive or motor tasks, functional connectivity between brain regions, and changes in signal complexity. We also highlight the accumulating evidence on age-related EEG/MEG changes and biological markers of brain neurodegeneration, including genetic factors, structural abnormalities on magnetic resonance images, and the biochemical changes associated with Aβ deposition and tau pathology.

Keywords: Aging; Biomarkers; Cognition; Electroencephalography; Event-related potentials; Functional connectivity; Magnetoencephalography; Oscillatory activity; Signal complexity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Waves
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology