Spatial gradients of healthy aging: a study of myelin-sensitive maps.
Karolis VR., Callaghan MF., Tseng C-EJ., Hope T., Weiskopf N., Rees G., Cappelletti M.
Protracted development of a brain network may entail greater susceptibility to aging decline, supported by evidence of an earlier onset of age-related changes in late-maturing anterior areas, that is, an anterior-to-posterior gradient of brain aging. Here we analyzed the spatiotemporal features of age-related differences in myelin content across the human brain indexed by magnetization transfer (MT) concentration in a cross-sectional cohort of healthy adults. We described age-related spatial gradients in MT, which may reflect the reversal of patterns observed in development. We confirmed an anterior-to-posterior gradient of age-related MT decrease and also showed a lateral-to-ventral gradient inversely mirroring the sequence of connectivity development and myelination. MT concentration in the lateral white matter regions continued to increase up to the age of 45 years and decreased moderately following a peak. In contrast, ventral white matter regions reflected life-long stable MT concentration levels, followed by a rapid decrease at a later age. We discussed our findings in relation with existing theories of brain aging, including the lack of support for the proposal that areas which mature later decline at an accelerated rate.