Altered brain morphology and functional connectivity in postmenopausal women: automatic segmentation of whole-brain and thalamic subnuclei and resting-state fMRI

Aging (Albany NY). 2024 Mar 23;16(6):4965-4979. doi: 10.18632/aging.205662. Epub 2024 Mar 23.


The transition to menopause is associated with various physiological changes, including alterations in brain structure and function. However, menopause-related structural and functional changes are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was not only to compare the brain volume changes between premenopausal and postmenopausal women, but also to evaluate the functional connectivity between the targeted brain regions associated with structural atrophy in postmenopausal women. Each 21 premenopausal and postmenopausal women underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). T1-weighted MRI and resting-state functional MRI data were used to compare the brain volume and seed-based functional connectivity, respectively. In statistical analysis, multivariate analysis of variance, with age and whole brain volume as covariates, was used to evaluate surface areas and subcortical volumes between the two groups. Postmenopausal women showed significantly smaller cortical surface, especially in the left medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC), right superior temporal cortex, and right lateral orbitofrontal cortex, compared to premenopausal women (p < 0.05, Bonferroni-corrected) as well as significantly decreased functional connectivity between the left mOFC and the right thalamus was observed (p < 0.005, Monte-Carlo corrected). Although postmenopausal women did not show volume atrophy in the right thalamus, the volume of the right pulvinar anterior, which is one of the distinguished thalamic subnuclei, was significantly decreased (p < 0.05, Bonferroni-corrected). Taken together, our findings suggest that diminished brain volume and functional connectivity may be linked to menopause-related symptoms caused by the lower sex hormone levels.

Keywords: brain morphology; functional connectivity; sex hormones; thalamic subnuclei.

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Postmenopause*
  • Thalamus / pathology