Age differences in prefrontal surface area and thickness in middle aged to older adults

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Abstract

Age is associated with reductions in surface area and cortical thickness, particularly in prefrontal regions. There is also evidence of greater thickness in some regions at older ages. Non-linear age effects in some studies suggest that age may continue to impact brain structure in later decades of life, but relatively few studies have examined the impact of age on brain structure within middle-aged to older adults. We investigated age differences in prefrontal surface area and cortical thickness in healthy adults between the ages of 51 and 81 years. Participants received a structural 3-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging scan. Based on a priori hypotheses, primary analyses focused on surface area and cortical thickness in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex. We also performed exploratory vertex-wise analyses of surface area and cortical thickness across the entire cortex. We found that older age was associated with smaller surface area in the dorsolateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices but greater cortical thickness in the dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices. Vertex-wise analyses revealed smaller surface area in primarily frontal regions at older ages, but no age effects were found for cortical thickness. Results suggest age is associated with reduced surface area but greater cortical thickness in prefrontal regions during later decades of life, and highlight the differential effects age has on regional surface area and cortical thickness.

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Dotson, V. M., Szymkowicz, S. M., Sozda, C. N., Kirton, J. W., Green, M. L., O’Shea, A., … Woods, A. J. (2016). Age differences in prefrontal surface area and thickness in middle aged to older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 7(JAN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2015.00250

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