Alternation in Effective Connectivity With Cognitive Aging: A Longitudinal Study of Elderly Populations

Front Aging Neurosci. 2021 Nov 12;13:755931. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2021.755931. eCollection 2021.


In this research, we investigated the alterations in the directionality and strength of regional interactions within functionally changed brain networks and their relationship to cognitive decline during the aging process in normal elderly individuals. Thirty-seven cognitively normal elderly people received resting-state fMRI scans and cognitive assessments at baseline (age = 78.65 ± 3.56 years) and at 4-year follow-up. Functional connectivity analyses were used to identify networks containing brain regions whose functions changed with age as regions of interest. The spectral dynamic causal modeling (spDCM) method was used to estimate the causal interactions within networks in subjects at different time points and in subjects with different cognitive levels to explore the alterations with cognitive aging. The results showed that, at both time points, all the networks, except the frontal-parietal network (FPN) at baseline, had mutual interactions between each pair of nodes. Furthermore, when the subjects were divided with global cognition level, lost connections were only found in the subgroup with better performance. These indicated that elderly people appeared to need more interaction pathways between brain areas with cognitive decline. We also observed that the strength of the flow of information from the left angular gyrus to the precuneus, which is associated with activation of memory retrieval and the functional hub involved in various cognitive domains, was predictive of declines in executive function with the aging process, making it a potential predictor of such situation.

Keywords: cognitive aging; dynamic causal modeling; effective connectivity; executive function; fMRI.