Skip to main content

The relationship between voxel-based metrics of resting state functional connectivity and cognitive performance in cognitively healthy elderly adults


In previous studies, resting-state functional connectivity (FC) metrics of specific brain regions or networks based on prior hypotheses have been correlated with cognitive performance. Without constraining our analyses to specific regions or networks, we employed whole-brain voxel-based weighted degree (WD), a measure of local FC strength, to be correlated with three commonly used neuropsychological assessments of language, executive function and memory retrieval in both positive and negative directions in 67 cognitively healthy elderly adults. We also divided voxel-based WD into short-ranged and long-ranged WDs to evaluate the influence of FC distance on the WD-cognition relationship, and performed three validation tests. Our results showed that for language and executive function tests, positive WD correlates were located in the frontal and temporal cortices, and negative WD correlates in the precuneus and occipital cortices; for memory retrieval, positive WD correlates were located in the inferior temporal cortices, and negative WD correlates in the anterior cingulate cortices and supplementary motor areas. An FC-distance-dependent effect was also observed, with the short-ranged WD correlates of language and executive function tests located in the medial brain regions and the long-ranged WD correlates in the lateral regions. Our findings suggest that inter-individual differences in FC at rest are predictive of cognitive ability in the elderly adults. Moreover, the distinct patterns of positive and negative WD correlates of cognitive performance recapitulate the dichotomy between task-activated and task-deactivated neural systems, implying that a competition between distinct neural systems on functional network topology may have cognitive relevance.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


Download references


We are grateful to all participants in the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study (MAS) and the MAS Research Team. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Sophia Dean and Ms. Angie Russell for proofreading and preparing the manuscript for submission.


This study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Program Grant (ID 350833) and Project Grant (ID 510175), as well as an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (ID DP0774213).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Perminder S. Sachdev or Wei Wen.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) of the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 5808 KB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhang, H., Sachdev, P.S., Thalamuthu, A. et al. The relationship between voxel-based metrics of resting state functional connectivity and cognitive performance in cognitively healthy elderly adults. Brain Imaging and Behavior 12, 1742–1758 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Resting state
  • Functional connectivity
  • Weighted degree
  • Voxel-based
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Elderly adults