White-matter degradation and dynamical compensation support age-related functional alterations in human brain

Spase Petkoski, Petra Ritter, Viktor K Jirsa

Structural connectivity of the brain at different ages is analyzed using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data. The largest decrease of streamlines is found in frontal regions and for long inter-hemispheric links. The average length of the tracts also decreases, but the clustering is unaffected. From functional MRI we identify age-related changes of dynamic functional connectivity (dFC) and spatial covariation features of functional connectivity (FC) links captured by metaconnectivity. They indicate more stable dFC, but wider range and variance of MC, whereas static features of FC did not show any significant differences with age. We implement individual connectivity in whole-brain models and test several hypotheses for the mechanisms of operation among underlying neural system. We demonstrate that age-related functional fingerprints are only supported if the model accounts for: (i) compensation of the individual brains for the overall loss of structural connectivity and (ii) decrease of propagation velocity due to the loss of myelination. We also show that with these 2 conditions, it is sufficient to decompose the time-delays as bimodal distribution that only distinguishes between intra- and inter-hemispheric delays, and that the same working point also captures the static FC the best, and produces the largest variability at slow time-scales.

Cereb Cortex. 33(10):6241-6256 (2023)


brain agingBrain Network Modelcompensationconnectomedynamic functional connectivity
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