Indexed on: 02 Feb '10Published on: 02 Feb '10Published in: Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Neural, vascular and structural variables contributing to the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal response variability were investigated in younger and older humans. Twelve younger healthy human subjects (six male and six female; mean age: 24 years; range: 19-27 years) and 12 older healthy subjects (five male and seven female; mean age: 58 years; range: 55-71 years) with no history of head trauma and neurological disease were scanned. Functional magnetic resonance imaging measurements using the BOLD contrast were made when participants performed a motor, cognitive or a breath hold (BH) task. Activation volume and the BOLD response amplitude were estimated for the younger and older at both group and subject levels. Mean activation volume was reduced by 45%, 40% and 38% in the elderly group during the motor, cognitive and BH tasks, respectively, compared to the younger. Reduction in activation volume was substantially higher compared to the reduction in the gray matter volume of 14% in the older compared to the younger. A significantly larger variability in the intersubject BOLD signal change occurred during the motor task, compared to the cognitive task. BH-induced BOLD signal change between subjects was significantly less-variable in the motor task-activated areas in the younger compared to older whereas such a difference between age groups was not observed during the cognitive task. Hemodynamic scaling using the BH signal substantially reduced the BOLD signal variability during the motor task compared to the cognitive task. The results indicate that the origin of the BOLD signal variability between subjects was predominantly vascular during the motor task while being principally a consequence of neural variability during the cognitive task. Thus, in addition to gray matter differences, the type of task performed can have different vascular variability weighting that can influence age-related differences in brain functional response.