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Thinning of the Cerebral Cortex in Aging



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Thinning of the Cerebral Cortex in Aging David H Salat1 Randy L Buckner2 3 5 Abraham Z Snyder3 4 Douglas N Greve1 Rahul S R Desikan1 Evelina Busa1 John C Morris4 Anders M Dale 1 and Bruce Fischl1 1MGH MIT HMS Athinoula A Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging Department of Radiology Massachusetts General Hospital Charlestown MA USA 2Departments of Psychology Anatomy and Neurobiology Washington University St Louis MO USA 3Department of Radiology Washington University St Louis MO USA 4Department of Neurology Washington University St Louis MO USA and 5Howard Hughes Medical Institute The thickness of the cerebral cortex was measured in 106 nondemented participants ranging in age from 18 to 93 years For each participant multiple acquisitions of structural T1 weighted magnetic resonance imaging MRI scans were averaged to yield high resolution high contrast data sets Cortical thickness was estimated as the distance between the gray white boundary and the outer cortical surface resulting in a continuous estimate across the cortical mantle Global thinning was apparent by middle age Men and women showed a similar degree of global thinning and did not differ in mean thickness in the younger or older groups Age associated differences were widespread but demonstrated a patchwork of regional atrophy and sparing Examination of subsets of the data from independent samples produced highly similar age associated patterns of atrophy suggesting that the specific anatomic patterns within the maps were reliable Certain results including prominent atrophy of prefrontal cortex and relative sparing of temporal and parahippocampal cortex converged with previous findings Other results were unexpected such as the finding of prominent atrophy in frontal cortex near primary motor cortex and calcarine cortex near primary visual cortex These findings demonstrate that cortical thinning occurs by middle age and spans widespread cortical regions that include primary as well as association cortex Age



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