Decreased Segregation of Brain Systems across the Healthy Adult Lifespan

Healthy aging has been associated with decreased specialization in brain function. This characterization has focused largely on describing age-accompanied differences in specialization at the level of neurons and brain areas. We expand this work to describe systems-level differences in specialization in a healthy adult lifespan sample (n = 210; 20-89 y). A graph-theoretic framework is used to guide analysis of functional MRI resting-state data and describe systems-level differences in connectivity of individual brain networks. Young adults' brain systems exhibit a balance of within-and between-system correlations that is characteristic of segregated and specialized organization. Increasing age is accompanied by decreasing segregation of brain systems. Compared with systems involved in the processing of sensory input and motor output, systems mediating "associative" operations exhibit a distinct pattern of reductions in segregation across the adult lifespan. Of particular importance, the magnitude of association system segregation is predictive of long-term memory function, independent of an individual's age.

Includes supplementary material.
Brain, Aging, Memory, Resting state, Marnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
US National Institutes of Health (5R37AG-006265-30). McDonnell Foundation Collaborative Action Award and a research support fund from The University of Texas at Dallas.
©2014 The Authors, "Freely available online through the PNAS open access option."