Individual differences in regional cortical volumes across the life span are associated with regional optical measures of arterial elasticity

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Aging is often accompanied by changes in brain anatomy and cerebrovascular health. However, the specific relationship between declines in regional cortical volumes and loss of cerebral arterial elasticity is less clear, as only global or very localized estimates of cerebrovascular health have been available. Here we employed a novel tomographic optical method (pulse-DOT) to derive local estimates of cerebral arterial elasticity and compared regional volumetric estimates (obtained with FreeSurfer) with optical arterial elasticity estimates from the same regions in 47 healthy adults (aged 18–75). Between-subject analyses revealed a global correlation between cortical volume and cortical arterial elasticity, which was a significant mediator of the association between age and cortical volume. Crucially, a novel within-subject analysis highlighted the spatial association between regional variability in cortical volumes and arterial elasticity in the same regions. This association strengthened with age. Gains in the predictability of cortical volumes from arterial elasticity data were obtained by sharpening the resolution up to individual cortical regions. These results indicate that some of the variance of sub-clinical age-related brain atrophy is associated with differences in the status of cerebral arteries, and can help explain the unique patterns of brain atrophy found within each individual.

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