Lost dynamics and the dynamics of loss: Longitudinal compression of brain signal variability is coupled with declines in functional integration and cognitive performance

September 15, 2021

The reduction of brain signal variability is coupled with declines in functional integration and cognitive performance

Lost dynamics and the dynamics of loss

Garrett, D. D., Skowron, A., Wiegert, S., Adolf, J., Dahle, C. L., Lindenberger, U., & Raz, N. (2021). Lost dynamics and the dynamics of loss: Longitudinal compression of brain signal variability is coupled with declines in functional integration and cognitive performance. Cerebral Cortex. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhab154

Reduced moment-to-moment blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal variability has been consistently linked to advanced age and poorer cognitive performance, showing potential as a functional marker of brain aging. To date, however, this promise has rested exclusively on cross-sectional comparisons. In a sample of 74 healthy adults, we provide the first longitudinal evidence linking individual differences in BOLD variability, age, and performance across multiple cognitive domains over an average period of 2.5 years. As expected, those expressing greater loss of BOLD variability also exhibited greater decline in cognition. The fronto-striato-thalamic system emerged as a core neural substrate for these change–change associations. Preservation of signal variability within regions of the fronto-striato-thalamic system also cohered with preservation of functional integration across regions of this system, suggesting that longitudinal maintenance of “local” dynamics may require across-region communication. We therefore propose this neural system as a primary target in future longitudinal studies on the neural substrates of cognitive aging. Given that longitudinal change–change associations between brain and cognition are notoriously difficult to detect, the presence of such an association within a relatively short follow-up period bolsters the promise of brain signal variability as a viable, experimentally sensitive probe for studying individual differences in human cognitive aging.

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