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Neuropsychologia. 2009 Feb;47(3):916-27. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.01.001. Epub 2009 Jan 8.

Aging white matter and cognition: differential effects of regional variations in diffusion properties on memory, executive functions, and speed.

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1
Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.

Abstract

Disruption of cerebral white matter has been proposed as an explanation for age-related cognitive declines. However, the role of specific regions in specific cognitive declines remains unclear. We used diffusion tensor imaging to examine the associations between regional microstructural integrity of the white matter and performance on age-sensitive cognitive tasks in a sample of healthy adults (N=52, age 19-81 years). White matter integrity was assessed by fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in multiple regions of interest (genu and splenium of corpus callosum, internal capsule limbs, prefrontal, temporal, superior/posterior parietal, occipital white matter) and related to processing speed, working memory, inhibition, task switching, and episodic memory. We found that age and regional white matter integrity differentially influenced cognitive performance. Age-related degradation in anterior brain areas was associated with decreased processing speed and poorer working memory, whereas reduced inhibition and greater task switching costs were linked to decline in posterior areas. Poorer episodic memory was associated with age-related differences in central white matter regions. The observed multiple dissociations among specific age-sensitive cognitive skills and their putative neuroanatomical substrates support the view that age-related cognitive declines are unlikely to stem from a single cause.

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