Resting-state functional connectivity in normal brain aging

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★ Cognitive decline occurs in neurodegenerative disorders and during normal aging. ★ Resting-state fMRI is a promising neuroimaging tool to address aging and cognition. ★ Brain networks are mapped by analyzing resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC). ★ Aging most consistently affects the default-mode network, critical for memory. ★ Aging impairs RSFC via white matter, dopaminergic and/or β-amyloid dysfunction.

The world is aging and, as the elderly population increases, age-related cognitive decline emerges as a major concern. Neuroimaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), allow the investigation of the neural bases of age-related cognitive changes in vivo. Typically, fMRI studies map brain activity while subjects perform cognitive tasks, but such paradigms are often difficult to implement on a wider basis. Resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) has emerged as an important alternative modality of fMRI data acquisition, during which no specific task is required. Due to such simplicity and the reliability of rs-fMRI data, this modality presents increased feasibility and potential for clinical application in the future. With rs-fMRI, fluctuations in regional brain activity can be detected across separate brain regions and the patterns of intercorrelation between the functioning of these regions are measured, affording quantitative indices of resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC). This review article summarizes the results of recent rs-fMRI studies that have documented a variety of aging-related RSFC changes in the human brain, discusses the neurophysiological hypotheses proposed to interpret such findings, and provides an overview of the future, highly promising perspectives in this field.

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