Variation in longitudinal trajectories of cortical sulci in normal elderly

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Abstract

Sulcal morphology has been reported to change with age-related neurological diseases, but the trajectories of sulcal change in normal ageing in the elderly is still unclear. We conducted a study of sulcal morphological changes over seven years in 132 normal elderly participants aged 70–90 years at baseline, and who remained cognitively normal for the next seven years. We examined the fold opening and sulcal depth of sixteen (eight on each hemisphere) prominent sulci based on T1-weighted MRI using automated methods with visual quality control. The trajectory of each individual sulcus with respect to age was examined separately by linear mixed models. Fold opening was best modelled by cubic fits in five sulci, by quadratic models in six sulci and by linear models in five sulci, indicating an accelerated widening of a number of sulci in older age. Sulcal depth showed significant linear decline in three sulci and quadratic trend in one sulcus. Turning points of non-linear trajectories towards accelerated widening of the fold were found to be around the age between 75 and 80, indicating an accelerated atrophy of brain cortex starting in the age of late 70s. Our findings of cortical sulcal changes in normal ageing could provide a reference for studies of neurocognitive disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases, in the elderly.

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