Neural Scaffolding as the Foundation for Stable Performance of Aging Cerebellum


FILIP Pavel GALLEA Cécile LEHERICY Stéphane LUNGU Ovidiu BAREŠ Martin

Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Cerebellum
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Medicine

Keywords Cerebellar aging; fMRI; Functional connectivity; Voxel-based morphometry
Description Although recently conceptualized as a neural node essential for a vast spectrum of associative and cognitive processes, the cerebellum has largely eluded attention in the research of aging, where it is marginalized mainly to structural analyses. In the current cross-sectional study of 67 healthy subjects of various ages (20 to 76 years), we sought to provide a comprehensive, multimodal account of age-related changes in the cerebellum during predictive motor timing, which was previously shown to engage this structure. We combined behavioral assessments of performance with functional MRI and voxel-based morphometry using an advanced method to avoid cerebellar deformation and registration imprecisions inherent to the standard processing at the whole-brain level. Higher age was surprisingly associated with stable behavioral performance during predictive motor timing, despite the massive decrease of infratentorial gray matter volume of a far higher extent than in the supratentorial region, affecting mainly the posterior cerebellar lobe. Nonetheless, this very area showed extensive hyperactivation directly correlated with age. The same region had decreased connectivity with the left caudate and increased connectivity with the left fusiform gyrus, the right pallidum, the hippocampus, and the lingual gyrus. Hence, we propose to extend the scaffolding theory of aging, previously limited mainly to the frontal cortices, to include also the cerebellum, which is likewise suffering from atrophy to a far greater extent than the rest of the brain and is similarly counteracting it by bilateral hyperactivation.

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