, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 251-264
Date: 26 May 2013

Metabolic changes in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices of the normal aging brain: proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study at 3 T

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Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) can explore aging at a molecular level. In this study, we investigated the relationships between regional concentrations of metabolites (such as choline, creatine, myo-inositol, and N-acetyl-aspartate) and normal aging in 30 cognitively normal subjects (15 women and 15 men, age range 22–82, mean = 49.9 ± 18.3 years) using quantitative proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. All MR scans were performed using a 3 T scanner. Point resolved spectroscopy was used as the volume selection method for the region-of-interest and the excitation method for water suppression. Single voxel spectroscopy with short echo time of 39 ms and repetition time of 2,000 ms was employed. Single voxels were placed in the limbic regions, i.e., anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and left and right hippocampi. Cerebrospinal fluid normalization and T1 and T2 correction factors were implemented in the calculation of absolute metabolite concentrations. A standardized T1W 3D volumetric fast field echo and axial T2-weighted fast spin-echo images were also acquired. Our results showed significant positive correlation of choline (r = 0.545, p = 0.002), creatine (r = 0.571, p = 0.001), and N-acetyl-aspartate (r = 0.674, p < 0.001) in the ACC; choline (r = 0.614, p < 0.001), creatine (r = 0.670, p < 0.001), and N-acetyl-aspartate (r = 0.528, p = 0.003) in the PCC; and NAA (r = 0.409, p = 0.025) in the left hippocampus, with age. No significant gender effect on metabolite concentrations was found. In aging, increases in choline and creatine might suggest glial proliferation, and an increase in N-acetyl-aspartate might indicate neuronal hypertrophy. Such findings highlight the metabolic changes of ACC and PCC with age, which could be compensatory to an increased energy demand coupled with a lower cerebral blood flow.