Defining Overlooked Structures Reveals New Associations between the Cortex and Cognition in Aging and Alzheimer's Disease

J Neurosci. 2024 Apr 17;44(16):e1714232024. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1714-23.2024.


Recent work suggests that indentations of the cerebral cortex, or sulci, may be uniquely vulnerable to atrophy in aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD) and that the posteromedial cortex (PMC) is particularly vulnerable to atrophy and pathology accumulation. However, these studies did not consider small, shallow, and variable tertiary sulci that are located in association cortices and are often associated with human-specific aspects of cognition. Here, we manually defined 4,362 PMC sulci in 432 hemispheres in 216 human participants (50.5% female) and found that these smaller putative tertiary sulci showed more age- and AD-related thinning than larger, more consistent sulci, with the strongest effects for two newly uncovered sulci. A model-based approach relating sulcal morphology to cognition identified that a subset of these sulci was most associated with memory and executive function scores in older adults. These findings lend support to the retrogenesis hypothesis linking brain development and aging and provide new neuroanatomical targets for future studies of aging and AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; aging; neuroanatomy; neuroimaging; tertiary sulci.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male