Functional brain network study explores healthy brain ageing

Image - Functional brain network study explores healthy brain ageing

The brain functional connectivity patterns of healthy older adults have been studied by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing’s (CHeBA) Dr Alistair Perry. The research was published in the July issue of the journal Human Brain Mapping.

Functional connectivity studies examine the neural interactions, or connections, between different regions of the brain and have been made possible by significant advances in neuroimaging technology in the last decade. They can be undertaken while the participant is either at-rest or engaged with a task, and allow better understanding of the different brain circuits involved in cognitive processes. This approach provides an invaluable resource for comparing and understanding the changes involved between healthy brain ageing and neuropathological conditions, such as dementia.

“Healthy ageing is accompanied by a constellation of changes in cognitive processes and alterations in functional brain connectivity,” said lead author Dr Perry. “However, the complex relationships between changes in brain connectivity and cognitive processes during ageing in later life are poorly understood. How environmental factors in earlier life - such as educational history - provide a protective influence on ageing processes is also unknown.”

Dr Perry said that the current research identified that age and educational attainment confer independent influences on brain patterns supporting cognitive processes. “It implies that age-related changes may be resistant to positive lifestyle factors that modify the risk of cognitive impairment such as educational attainment.”

The study examined the brains of 101 healthy, community-dwelling adults aged 70 to 90 years from CHeBA’s Sydney Memory and Ageing Study (MAS) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Co-author and CHeBA Co-Director Professor Perminder Sachdev said Dr Perry’s research is a valuable contribution to understanding age-related cognitive changes.

“Better understanding of the complex pathways involved in cognition as we become older may also have implications for behavioural interventions targeting healthy ageing,” said Professor Sachdev.

Media contact: Heidi Douglass, Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing,

+61 2 9382 3398, 0435 579 202 | h.douglass@unsw.edu.au

Date Published: 
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
Back to Top