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White and Grey Matter Changes in the Language Network during Healthy Aging

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Yang, Y., Dai, B., Howell, P., Wang, X., Li, K., & Lu, C. (2014). White and Grey Matter Changes in the Language Network during Healthy Aging. PLoS One, 9(9): e108077. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108077.

Neural structures change with age but there is no consensus on the exact processes involved. This study tested the hypothesis that white and grey matter in the language network changes during aging according to a “last in, first out” process. The fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter and cortical thickness of grey matter were measured in 36 participants whose ages ranged from 55 to 79 years. Within the language network, the dorsal pathway connecting the mid-to-posterior superior temporal cortex (STC) and the inferior frontal cortex (IFC) was affected more by aging in both FA and thickness than the other dorsal pathway connecting the STC with the premotor cortex and the ventral pathway connecting the mid-to-anterior STC with the ventral IFC. These results were independently validated in a second group of 20 participants whose ages ranged from 50 to 73 years. The pathway that is most affected during aging matures later than the other two pathways (which are present at birth). The results are interpreted as showing that the neural structures which mature later are affected more than those that mature earlier, supporting the “last in, first out” theory.