Extrinsic and intrinsic brain network connectivity maintains cognition across the lifespan despite accelerated decay of regional brain activation

Kamen A. Tsvetanov, Richard N.A. Henson, Lorraine K. Tyler, Adeel Razi, Linda Geerligs, Timothy E. Ham, James B. Rowe, Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience

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81 Citations (Scopus)


The maintenance of wellbeing across the lifespan depends on the preservation of cognitive function.Wepropose that successful cognitive aging is determined by interactions both within and between large-scale functional brain networks. Such connectivity can be estimated from task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), also known as resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI). However, common correlational methods are confounded by age-related changes in the neurovascular signaling. To estimate network interactions at the neuronal rather than vascular level, we used generative models that specified both the neural interactions and a flexible neurovascular forward model. The networks’ parameters were optimized to explain the spectral dynamics of rs-fMRI data in 602 healthy human adults from population-based cohorts who were approximately uniformly distributed between 18 and 88 years (www.cam-can.com). We assessed directed connectivity within and between three key large-scale networks: the salience network, dorsal attention network, and default mode network. We found that age influences connectivity both within and between these networks, over and above the effects on neurovascular coupling. Canonical correlation analysis revealed that the relationship between network connectivity and cognitive function was age-dependent: cognitive performance relied on neural dynamics more strongly in older adults. These effects were driven partly by reduced stability of neural activity within all networks, as expressed by an accelerated decay of neural information. Our findings suggest that the balance of excitatory connectivity between networks, and the stability of intrinsic neural representations within networks, changes with age. The cognitive function of older adults becomes increasingly dependent on these factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3115-3126
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Between-/within-network
  • Cross-spectral dynamic causal modelling
  • Fmri
  • Resting-state networks
  • Salience network

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