Sep 18, 2021
Brain Imaging and Behavior

A comprehensive characterization of the brain’s white matter is critical for improving our understanding of healthy and diseased aging. Here we used diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) to estimate age and sex effects on white matter microstructure in a cross sectional sample of 15,628 adults aged 45–80 years old (47.6% male, 52.4% female). Microstructure was assessed using the following four models: a conventional single shell model, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); a more advanced single shell model, the tensor distribution function (TDF); an advanced multi shell model, neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI); and another advanced multi shell model, mean apparent propagator MRI (MAPMRI). Age was modeled using a data driven statistical approach, and normative centile curves were created to provide sex stratified white matter reference charts. Participant age and sex substantially impacted many aspects of white matter microstructure across the brain, with the advanced dMRI models TDF and NODDI detecting such effects the most sensitively. These findings and the normative reference curves provide an important foundation for the study of healthy and diseased brain aging.

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