Noradrenergic-dependent functions are associated with age-related locus coeruleus signal intensity differences

Kathy Y Liu, Rogier A Kievit, Kamen A Tsvetanov, Matthew J Betts, Emrah Düzel, James B Rowe, Cam-CAN, Robert Howard and Dorothea Hämmerer

The locus coeruleus (LC), the origin of noradrenergic modulation of cognitive and behavioral function, may play an important role healthy ageing and in neurodegenerative conditions. We investigated the functional significance of age-related differences in mean normalized LC signal intensity values (LC-CR) in magnetization-transfer (MT) images from the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN) cohort – an open-access, population-based dataset. Using structural equation modelling, we tested the pre-registered hypothesis that putatively noradrenergic (NA)-dependent functions would be more strongly associated with LC-CR in older versus younger adults. A unidimensional model (within which LC-CR related to a single factor representing all cognitive and behavioral measures) was a better fit with the data than the a priori two-factor model (within which LC-CR related to separate NAdependent and NA-independent factors). Our findings support the concept that age-related reduction of LC structural integrity is associated with impaired cognitive and behavioral function.

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Keywords

cognitive agingcognitive neuroscience
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