Coupled changes in brain white matter microstructure and fluid intelligence in later life

Stuart J. Ritchie*, Mark E. Bastin, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, Susana Muñoz Maniega, Laura E. Engelhardt, Simon R. Cox, Natalie A. Royle, Alan J. Gow, Janie Corley, Alison Pattie, Adele M. Taylor, Maria del C Valdés Hernández, John M. Starr, Joanna M. Wardlaw, Ian J. Deary

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    72 Citations (Scopus)
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    Understanding aging-related cognitive decline is of growing importance in aging societies, but relatively little is known about its neural substrates. Measures of white matter microstructure are known to correlate cross-sectionally with cognitive ability measures, but only a few small studies have tested for longitudinal relations among these variables. We tested whether there were coupled changes in brain white matter microstructure indexed by fractional anisotropy (FA) and three broad cognitive domains (fluid intelligence, processing speed, and memory) in a large cohort of human participants with longitudinal diffusion tensor MRI and detailed cognitive data taken at ages 73 years (n = 731) and 76 years (n = 488). Longitudinal changes in white matter microstructure were coupled with changes in fluid intelligence, but not with processing speed or memory. Individuals with higher baseline white matter FA showed less subsequent decline in processing speed. Our results provide evidence for a longitudinal link between changes in white matter microstructure and agingrelated cognitive decline during the eighth decade of life. They are consistent with theoretical perspectives positing that a corticocortical “disconnection” partly explains cognitive aging.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)8672-8682
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Neuroscience
    Issue number22
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


    • Cognitive aging
    • Diffusion tensor imaging
    • Fluid intelligence
    • Fractional anisotropy
    • Processing speed
    • White matter microstructure

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Neuroscience


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