Indexed on: 16 Nov '10Published on: 16 Nov '10Published in: NeuroImage
Resting state fMRI studies have found that cognitive decline in aging is associated with alterations in functional connectivity of distributed neural systems in the brain. While functional connections have been shown to rely on the underlying structural connectivity, direct structural connections have been studied in only a few distributed cortical systems so far. It is well known that subcortical nuclei have structural connections to the entire cortex. We hypothesized that structural subcortico-cortical connections may provide integral routes for communication between cortical resting state networks, and that changes in the integrity of these connections have a role in cognitive aging. We combined anatomical MRI, diffusion tensor MRI, and resting state fMRI in 100 healthy elderly to identify fiber bundles connecting cortical resting state networks to subcortical nuclei. In identified tracts, white matter fiber bundle integrity measures were compared to composite cognitive measures on executive function, processing speed, and memory performance. The integrity (FA values) in selected fiber bundles correlated strongly with cognitive measures on executive function and processing speed. Correlation was most pronounced between executive function and fiber bundles connecting the putamen to the dorsal attention network (r=0.73, p<0.001). Our findings show that unique cortico-subcortical fiber bundles can be identified for a range of cortical resting state networks, and indicate that these connections play an important role in cortical resting state network communication and cognition.