Age, gender, and hemispheric differences in iron deposition in the human brain: an in vivo MRI study.
It is well known that iron accumulates in the brains of patients with various neurodegenerative diseases. To better understand disease-related iron changes, it is necessary to know the physiological distribution and accumulation of iron in the human brain. Studies have shown that brain iron levels increase with aging. However, the effects of gender and hemispheric laterality on iron accumulation and distribution are not well established. In this study, we estimated the brain iron levels in vivo in 78 healthy adults ranging in age 22 to 78 years using magnetic susceptibility-weighted phase imaging. The effects of age, gender, and hemispheric location on brain iron levels were evaluated within the framework of a general linear model. We found that the left hemisphere had higher iron levels than the right in the putamen, globus pallidus, substantia nigra, thalamus, and frontal white matter. We argue that the hemispheric asymmetry of iron content may underlie that of the dopaminergic system and may be related to motor lateralization in humans. In addition, significant age-related iron accumulation occurred in the putamen, red nucleus, and frontal white matter, but no gender-related differences in iron levels were detected. The results of this study extend our knowledge of the physiological distribution and accumulation of iron in the human brain.