, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 251–264 | Cite as

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

  • Pui-Wai Chiu
  • Henry Ka-Fung Mak
  • Kelvin Kai-Wing Yau
  • Queenie Chan
  • Raymond Chuen-Chung Chang
  • Leung-Wing Chu


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.


Aging Anterior cingulate cortex Posterior cingulate cortex Magnetic resonance spectroscopy Neuronal hypertrophy Absolute quantification 


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Copyright information

© American Aging Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pui-Wai Chiu
    • 1
  • Henry Ka-Fung Mak
    • 1
    • 6
    • 7
    • 8
  • Kelvin Kai-Wing Yau
    • 2
  • Queenie Chan
    • 1
    • 3
  • Raymond Chuen-Chung Chang
    • 4
    • 6
    • 7
  • Leung-Wing Chu
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of MedicineThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  2. 2.Department of Management SciencesCity University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  3. 3.Philips HealthcareHong KongChina
  4. 4.Laboratory of Neurodegenerative Disease, Department of Anatomy, Li Ka Shing Faculty of MedicineThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  5. 5.Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of MedicineQueen Mary HospitalHong KongChina
  6. 6.Alzheimer’s Disease Research NetworkThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  7. 7.Research Centre of Heart, Brain, Hormone and Healthy Aging, Li Ka Shing Faculty of MedicineThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  8. 8.Queen Mary HospitalHong KongChina

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