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Front Neurosci. 2019 Sep 13;13:857. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.00857. eCollection 2019.

Altered Cingulate Cortex Functional Connectivity in Normal Aging and Mild Cognitive Impairment.

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Faculty of Psychology and Educational Science, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.
Radiology Unit, Azienda Ospedaliera Ospedali Riuniti Marche Nord, Pesaro, Italy.
Department of Neurology, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Las Vegas, NV, United States.
Department of Neuroscience, Imaging and Clinical Sciences, Institute of Advanced Biomedical Technologies, D'Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara, Chieti, Italy.



Resting-state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies revealed that the brain is organized into specialized networks constituted by regions that show a coherent fluctuation of spontaneous activity. Among these networks, the cingulate cortex appears to play a crucial role, particularly in the default mode network, the dorsal attention network and the salience network. In the present study, we mapped the functional connectivity (FC) pattern of different regions of the cingulate cortex: the anterior cingulate cortex, midcingulate cortex and posterior cingulate cortex/retro splenial cortex, which have been in turn divided into a total of 9 subregions. We compared FC patterns of the cingulate subregions in a sample of mild cognitive impairment patients and healthy elderly subjects.


We enrolled 19 healthy elders (age range: 61-72 y.o.) and 16 Mild cognitive impairment patients (age range 64-87 y.o.). All participants had comparable levels of education (8-10 years) and were neurologically examined to exclude visual and motor impairments, major medical conditions, psychiatric or neurological disorders and consumption of psychotropic drugs. The diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment was performed according to Petersen criteria. Subjects were evaluated with Mini-Mental State Examination, Frontal Assessment Battery, and prose memory (Babcock story) tests. In addition, with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, we investigated resting-state network activities.


Healthy elderly, compared to mild cognitive impairment, showed significant increased level of FC for the ventral part of the anterior cingulate cortex in correspondence to the bilateral caudate and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Moreover, for the midcingulate cortex the healthy elderly group showed increased levels of FC in the somatomotor region, prefrontal cortex, and superior parietal lobule. Meanwhile, the mild cognitive impairment group showed an increased level of FC for the superior frontal gyrus, frontal eye field and orbitofrontal cortex compared to the healthy elderly group.


Our findings indicate that cognitive decline observed in mild cognitive impairment patients damages the global FC of the cingulate cortex, supporting the idea that abnormalities in resting-state activities of the cingulate cortex could be a useful additional tool in order to better understand the brain mechanisms of MCI.


MCI; aging; cingulate cortex; fMRI; functional connectivity; resting-state FC-fMRI

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