High-Resolution Multi-Shot Diffusion Imaging of Structural Networks in Healthy Neurocognitive Aging.

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Healthy neurocognitive aging has been associated with the microstructural degradation of white matter pathways that connect distributed gray matter regions, assessed by diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI). However, the relatively low spatial resolution of standard DWI has limited the examination of age-related differences in the properties of smaller, tightly curved white matter fibers, as well as the relatively more complex microstructure of gray matter. Here, we capitalize on high-resolution multi-shot DWI, which allows spatial resolutions < 1 mm3 to be achieved on clinical 3T MRI scanners. We assessed whether traditional diffusion tensor-based measures of gray matter microstructure and graph theoretical measures of white matter structural connectivity assessed by standard (1.5 mm3 voxels, 3.375 μl volume) and high-resolution (1 mm3 voxels, 1μl volume) DWI were differentially related to age and cognitive performance in 61 healthy adults 18-78 years of age. Cognitive performance was assessed using an extensive battery comprising 12 separate tests of fluid (speed-dependent) cognition. Results indicated that the high-resolution data had larger correlations between age and gray matter mean diffusivity, but smaller correlations between age and structural connectivity. Moreover, parallel mediation models including both standard and high-resolution measures revealed that only the high-resolution measures mediated age-related differences in fluid cognition. These results lay the groundwork for future studies planning to apply high-resolution DWI methodology to further assess the mechanisms of both healthy aging and cognitive impairment.





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Merenstein, Jenna L, Jiayi Zhao, Hollie A Mullin, Marc D Rudolph, Allen W Song and David J Madden (2023). High-Resolution Multi-Shot Diffusion Imaging of Structural Networks in Healthy Neurocognitive Aging. NeuroImage, 275. p. 120191. 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2023.120191 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27506.

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Jenna Merenstein

Postdoctoral Scholar

My research uses MRI to study the effect of healthy brain aging on numerous cognitive abilities, especially memory and attention. I also use MRI to study the structural and functional brain properties that differentiate Alzheimer's disease from healthy aging. I obtained my Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience in April 2022 from Dr. Lani Bennett's lab at the University of California, Riverside. I am currently a Postdoctoral Associate working in the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center (BIAC) with Dr. David Madden. 


Allen W Song

Professor in Radiology

The research in our lab is concerned with advancing structural and functional MRI methodologies (e.g. fast and high-resolution imaging techniques) for human brain imaging. We also aim to improve our understanding of functional brain signals, including spatiotemporal characterizations of the blood oxygenation level dependent contrast and alternative contrast mechanisms that are more directly linked to the neuronal activities. Additional effort is invested in applying and validating the developed methods to study human functional neuroanatomy.


David Joseph Madden

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

My research focuses primarily on the cognitive neuroscience of aging: the investigation of age-related changes in perception, attention, and memory, using both behavioral measures and neuroimaging techniques, including positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

The behavioral measures have focused on reaction time, with the goal of distinguishing age-related changes in specific cognitive abilities from more general effects arising from a slowing in elementary perceptual processes. The cognitive abilities of interest include selective attention as measured in visual search tasks, semantic and episodic memory retrieval, and executive control processes.

The behavioral measures are necessary to define the cognitive abilities of interest, and the neuroimaging techniques help define the functional neuroanatomy of those abilities. The PET and fMRI measures provide information regarding neural activity during cognitive performance. DTI is a recently developed technique that images the structural integrity of white matter. The white matter tracts of the brain provide critical pathways linking the gray matter regions, and thus this work will complement the studies using PET and fMRI that focus on gray matter activation.

A current focus of the research program is the functional connectivity among regions, not only during cognitive task performance but also during rest. These latter measures, referred to as intrinsic functional connectivity, are beginning to show promise as an index of overall brain functional efficiency, which can be assessed without the implementation of a specific cognitive task. From DTI, information can be obtained regarding how anatomical connectivity constrains intrinsic functional connectivity. It will be important to determine the relative influence of white matter pathway integrity, intrinsic functional connectivity, and task-related functional connectivity, as mediators of age-related differences in behavioral measures of cognitive performance.

Ultimately, the research program can help link age-related changes in cognitive performance to changes in the structure and function of specific neural systems. The results also have implications for clinical translation, in terms of the identification of neural biomarkers for the diagnosis of neural pathology and targeting rehabilitation procedures.

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