Imaging of the aging brain. Part I. Normal findings

Radiology. 1988 Mar;166(3):785-96. doi: 10.1148/radiology.166.3.3277247.


A thorough knowledge of the normal changes that occur in the brain with age is critical before abnormal findings are analyzed. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging improves the ability to distinguish normal and abnormal findings in the brain. The major changes that may occur in elderly individuals without neurologic deficits include enlargement of the ventricles, cortical sulci, and vermian subarachnoid spaces; multifocal areas of hyperintensity in the white matter and basal ganglia; a progressive prominence of hypointensity on T2-weighted images of the putamen, almost equal to that of the globus pallidus; an increase in the oxygen extraction ratio with normal or mildly decreased neuron metabolism; arteriosclerosis in large and small arteries and amyloid angiopathy in leptomeningeal cortical vessels; and decreased dopamine receptor binding in the corpus striatum. Since approximately half of the elderly population exhibits only negligible brain alterations, MR imaging may facilitate the distinction between usual (no neurologic dysfunction) and successful (no brain or vascular changes) aging.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging* / metabolism
  • Aging* / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Basal Ganglia / analysis
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / pathology
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Iron / analysis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Iron
  • Glucose