White matter integrity supports BOLD signal variability and cognitive performance in the aging human brain

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© 2015 Burzynska et al. Decline in cognitive performance in old age is linked to both suboptimal neural processing in grey matter (GM) and reduced integrity of white matter (WM), but the whole-brain structurefunction- cognition associations remain poorly understood. Here we apply a novel measure of GM processing-moment-to-moment variability in the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal (SD<inf>BOLD</inf>)-to study the associations between GM function during resting state, performance on fourmain cognitive domains (i.e., fluid intelligence, perceptual speed, episodic memory, vocabulary), andWMmicrostructural integrity in 91 healthy older adults (aged 60-80 years).We modeled the relations between whole-GMSD<inf>BOLD</inf> with cognitive performance using multivariate partial least squares analysis.We found that greater SD<inf>BOLD</inf> was associated with better fluid abilities and memory. Most of regions showing behaviorally relevant SD<inf>BOLD</inf> (e.g., precuneus and insula) were localized to inter- or intra-network "hubs" that connect and integrate segregated functional domains in the brain. Our results suggest that optimal dynamic range of neural processing in hub regions may support cognitive operations that specifically rely on the most flexible neural processing and complex cross-talk between different brain networks. Finally, we demonstrated that older adults with greaterWMintegrity in all majorWMtracts had also greater SD<inf>BOLD</inf> and better performance on tests ofmemory and fluid abilities.We conclude that SD<inf>BOLD</inf> is a promising functional neural correlate of individual differences in cognition in healthy older adults and is supported by overallWMintegrity.




Burzynska, A. Z., Wong, C. N., Voss, M. W., Cooke, G. E., McAuley, E., & Kramer, A. F. (2015). White matter integrity supports BOLD signal variability and cognitive performance in the aging human brain. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120315

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