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Subcortical volumetric changes across the adult lifespan: subregional thalamic atrophy accounts for age-related sensorimotor performance declines

Subcortical volumetric changes across the adult lifespan: subregional thalamic atrophy accounts for age-related sensorimotor performance declines

Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior 65: 128-138

Even though declines in sensorimotor performance during healthy aging have been documented extensively, its underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we explored whether age-related subcortical atrophy plays a role in sensorimotor performance declines, and particularly during bimanual manipulative performance (Purdue Pegboard Test). The thalamus, putamen, caudate and pallidum of 91 participants across the adult lifespan (ages 20-79 years) were automatically segmented. In addition to studying age-related changes in the global volume of each subcortical structure, local deformations within these structures, indicative of subregional volume changes, were assessed by means of recently developed shape analyses. Results showed widespread age-related global and subregional atrophy, as well as some notable subregional expansion. Even though global atrophy failed to explain the observed performance declines with aging, shape analyses indicated that atrophy in left and right thalamic subregions, specifically subserving connectivity with the premotor, primary motor and somatosensory cortical areas, mediated the relation between aging and performance decline. It is concluded that subregional volume assessment by means of shape analyses offers a sensitive tool with high anatomical resolution in the search for specific age-related associations between brain structure and behavior.

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Accession: 058924900

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PMID: 25682047

DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.01.003

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