MR-based age-related effects on the striatum, globus pallidus, and thalamus in healthy individuals across the adult lifespan

Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Dec 15;40(18):5269-5288. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24771. Epub 2019 Aug 26.


While numerous studies have used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to elucidate normative age-related trajectories in subcortical structures across the human lifespan, there exists substantial heterogeneity among different studies. Here, we investigated the normative relationships between age and morphology (i.e., volume and shape), and microstructure (using the T1-weighted/T2-weighted [T1w/T2w] signal ratio as a putative index of myelin and microstructure) of the striatum, globus pallidus, and thalamus across the adult lifespan using a dataset carefully quality controlled, yielding a final sample of 178 for the morphological analyses, and 162 for the T1w/T2w analyses from an initial dataset of 253 healthy subjects, aged 18-83. In accordance with previous cross-sectional studies of adults, we observed age-related volume decrease that followed a quadratic relationship between age and bilateral striatal and thalamic volumes, and a linear relationship in the globus pallidus. Our shape indices consistently demonstrated age-related posterior and medial areal contraction bilaterally across all three structures. Beyond morphology, we observed a quadratic inverted U-shaped relationship between T1w/T2w signal ratio and age, with a peak value occurring in middle age (at around 50 years old). After permutation testing, the Akaike information criterion determined age relationships remained significant for the bilateral globus pallidus and thalamus, for both the volumetric and T1w/T2w analyses. Our findings serve to strengthen and expand upon previous volumetric analyses by providing a normative baseline of morphology and microstructure of these structures to which future studies investigating patients with various disorders can be compared.

Keywords: adult lifespan; basal ganglia; healthy aging; magnetic resonance imaging; microstructure; segmentation; surface-based morphology; thalamus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Corpus Striatum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Female
  • Globus Pallidus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Globus Pallidus / physiology
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Longevity* / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Young Adult