In vivo visualization of age-related differences in the locus coeruleus

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Abstract

The locus coeruleus (LC), the major origin of noradrenergic modulation of the central nervous system, may play an important role in neuropsychiatric disorders including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. The pattern of age-related change of the LC across the life span is unclear. We obtained normalized, mean LC signal intensity values, that is, contrast ratios (CRs), from magnetization transfer–weighted images to investigate the relationship between LC CR and age in cognitively normal healthy adults (N = 605, age range 18–88 years). Study participants were part of the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience—an open-access, population-based data set. We found a quadratic relationship between LC CR and age, the peak occurring around 60 years, with no differences between males and females. Subregional analyses revealed that age-related decline in LC CR was confined to the rostral portion of the LC. Older adults showed greater variance in overall LC CR than younger adults, and the functional and clinical implications of these observed age-related differences require further investigation. Visualization of the LC in this study may inform how future scanning parameters can be optimized, and provides insight into how LC integrity changes across the life span.

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Liu, K. Y., Acosta-Cabronero, J., Cardenas-Blanco, A., Loane, C., Berry, A. J., Betts, M. J., … Hämmerer, D. (2019). In vivo visualization of age-related differences in the locus coeruleus. Neurobiology of Aging, 74, 101–111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2018.10.014

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