Functional and Structural Cerebellar-Behavior Relationships in Aging

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Functional and Structural Cerebellar-Behavior Relationships in Aging


Hicks, T. H.; Magalhaes, T. N. C.; Jackson, T. B.; Ballard, H. K.; Herrejon, I. A.; Bernard, J. A.


Healthy aging is associated with deficits in cognitive performance and brain changes, including in the cerebellum. Yet, the precise link between cerebellar function/structure and cognition in aging remains poorly understood. We explored this relationship in 138 healthy adults (aged 35-86, 53% female) using resting-state functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI), cerebellar volume, and cognitive and motor assessments in an aging sample. We expected to find negative relationships between lobular volume for with age, and positive relationships between specific lobular volumes with motor and cognition respectively. We predicted lower cerebellar fcMRI to cortical networks and circuits with increased age. Behaviorally, we expected higher cerebello-frontal fcMRI cerebellar connectivity with association areas to correlate with better behavioral performance. Behavioral tasks broadly assessed attention, processing speed, working memory, episodic memory, and motor abilities. Correlations were conducted between cerebellar lobules I-IV, V, Crus I, Crus II, vermis VI and behavioral measures. We found lower volumes with increased age as well as bidirectional cerebellar connectivity relationships with increased age, consistent with literature on functional connectivity and network segregation in aging. Further, we revealed unique associations for both cerebellar structure and connectivity with comprehensive behavioral measures in a healthy aging population. Our findings underscore cerebellar involvement in behavior during aging.

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