Brain age predicts mortality.

Research paper by J H JH Cole, S J SJ Ritchie, M E ME Bastin, M C MC Valdés Hernández, S S Muñoz Maniega, N N Royle, J J Corley, A A Pattie, S E SE Harris, Q Q Zhang, N R NR Wray, P P Redmond, R E RE Marioni, J M JM Starr, S R SR Cox, et al.

Indexed on: 26 Apr '17Published on: 26 Apr '17Published in: Molecular Psychiatry


Age-associated disease and disability are placing a growing burden on society. However, ageing does not affect people uniformly. Hence, markers of the underlying biological ageing process are needed to help identify people at increased risk of age-associated physical and cognitive impairments and ultimately, death. Here, we present such a biomarker, 'brain-predicted age', derived using structural neuroimaging. Brain-predicted age was calculated using machine-learning analysis, trained on neuroimaging data from a large healthy reference sample (N=2001), then tested in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (N=669), to determine relationships with age-associated functional measures and mortality. Having a brain-predicted age indicative of an older-appearing brain was associated with: weaker grip strength, poorer lung function, slower walking speed, lower fluid intelligence, higher allostatic load and increased mortality risk. Furthermore, while combining brain-predicted age with grey matter and cerebrospinal fluid volumes (themselves strong predictors) not did improve mortality risk prediction, the combination of brain-predicted age and DNA-methylation-predicted age did. This indicates that neuroimaging and epigenetics measures of ageing can provide complementary data regarding health outcomes. Our study introduces a clinically-relevant neuroimaging ageing biomarker and demonstrates that combining distinct measurements of biological ageing further helps to determine risk of age-related deterioration and death.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 25 April 2017; doi:10.1038/mp.2017.62.