Differential Rates of Regional Brain Change in Callosal and Ventricular Size: a 4-Year Longitudinal MRI Study of Elderly Men


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Abstract

Brain structure changes in size with normal aging, but the rate at which different structures change is controversial. We used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed twice, 4 years apart, to compare rates of age-related size change of the corpus callosum, which has been inconsistently observed to thin with age, with change in the lateral ventricles, which are well established to enlarge. Subjects were 215 community dwelling, elderly men (70–82 years old at initial MRI), who were participants in a longitudinal study of cardiovascular risk factors. Percent change in size was significant for both the callosal and ventricular measures, but annual rate of ventricular expansion (2.9%) was significantly greater than annual rate of callosal thinning (–0.9%). Callosal regions showed statistically equivalent rates of shrinkage; ventricular dilatation was symmetrical. Neither callosal and ventricular rates of change correlated with each other (r=0.01), nor did genu and splenium rates of change correlate with each other (r=0.05). Tests of speeded processing were administered contemporaneously with both MRIs to examine functional ramifications of observed brain changes. Decline in the Mini-Mental State Examination was related to thinning of the splenium, and decline in Stroop test word reading was selectively related to thinning of the callosal body. These longitudinal data support the contentions that differential rates of change occur in different brain regions in normal aging, age-related callosal thinning contributes to functional declines, and rate of change in one region can be independent of rate of change in another region, even within a brain structure.

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