Fully characterizing age differences in the brain is a key task for combatting ageing-related cognitive decline. Using propensity score matching on two independent, narrow-age cohorts, we used data on childhood cognitive ability, socioeconomic background, and intracranial volume to match participants at mean age 92 years (n = 42) to very similar participants at mean age 73 (n = 126). Examining a variety of global and regional structural neuroimaging variables, there were large differences in grey and white matter volumes, cortical surface area, cortical thickness, and white matter hyperintensity volume and spatial extent. In a mediation analysis, the total volume of white matter hyperintensities and total cortical surface area jointly mediated 24.9% of the relation between age and general cognitive ability (tissue volumes and cortical thickness were not significant mediators in this analysis). These findings provide an unusual and valuable perspective on neurostructural ageing, in which brains from the eighth and tenth decades of life differ widely despite the same cognitive, socio-economic, and brain-volumetric starting points.
- structural MRI
- brain volume
- white matter hyperintensities
- lesion mapping