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Open Access Research article

Asymmetry, sex differences and age-related changes in the white matter in the healthy elderly: a tract-based study

Soichiro Kitamura1*, Masayuki Morikawa12, Kuniaki Kiuchi1, Toshiaki Taoka3, Masami Fukusumi1, Kimihiko Kichikawa3 and Toshifumi Kishimoto1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Nara Medical University, Kashihara, Japan

2 Sakai City Mental Health Center, Sakai, Japan

3 Department of Radiology, Nara Medical University, Kashihara, Japan

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:378  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-378

Published: 4 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Hemispherical asymmetry, sex differences and age-related changes have been reported for the human brain. Meanwhile it was still unclear the presence of the asymmetry or sex differences in the human brain occurred whether as a normal development or as consequences of any pathological changes. The aim of this study was to investigate hemispherical asymmetry, sex differences and age-related changes by using a tract-based analysis in the nerve bundles.

Methods

40 healthy elderly subjects underwent magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging, and we calculated fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values along the major white matter bundles.

Results

We identified hemispherical asymmetry in the ADC values for the cingulate fasciculus in the total subject set and in males, and a sex difference in the FA values for the right uncinate fasciculus. For age-related changes, we demonstrated a significant increase in ADC values with advancing age in the right cingulum, left temporal white matter, and a significant decrease in FA values in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus.

Conclusion

In this study, we found hemispherical asymmetry, sex differences and age-related changes in particular regions of the white matter in the healthy elderly. Our results suggest considering these differences can be important in imaging studies.

Keywords:
diffusion tensor imaging; tractography; asymmetry; sex difference; aging; white matter