Age-related total gray matter and white matter changes in normal adult brain. Part I: volumetric MR imaging analysis. Am. J

ArticleinAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology 23(8):1327-33 · October 2002with26 Reads
Impact Factor: 3.59 · Source: PubMed


    A technique of segmenting total gray matter (GM) and total white matter (WM) in human brain is now available. We investigated the effects of age and sex on total fractional GM (%GM) and total fractional WM (%WM) volumes by using volumetric MR imaging in healthy adults.
    Fifty-four healthy volunteers (22 men, 32 women) aged 20-86 years underwent dual-echo fast spin-echo MR imaging. Total GM, total WM, and intracranial space volumes were segmented by using MR image-based computerized semiautomated software. Volumes were normalized as a percentage of intracranial volume (%GM and %WM) to adjust for variations in head size. Age and sex effects were then assessed.
    Both %GM and %WM in the intracranial space were significantly less in older subjects (> or =50 years) than in younger subjects (<50 years) (P <.0001 and P =.02, respectively). Consistently, %GM decreased linearly with age, beginning in the youngest subjects. %WM decreased in a quadratic fashion, with a greater rate beginning only in adult midlife. Although larger GM volumes were observed in men before adjustments for cranium size, no significant differences in %GM or %WM were observed between the sexes.
    GM volume loss appears to be a constant, linear function of age throughout adult life, whereas WM volume loss seems to be delayed until middle adult life. Both appear to be independent of sex. Quantitative analysis of %GM and %WM volumes can improve our understanding of brain atrophy due to normal aging; this knowledge may be valuable in distinguishing atrophy of disease patterns from characteristics of the normal aging process.