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Cortical Change Across the Human Life Span

Mapping cortical change across the human life span

Sowell et al. 2003 Nature Neuroscience

We used magnetic resonance imaging and cortical matching algorithms to map gray matter density (GMD) in 176 normal individuals ranging in age from 7 to 87 years. We found a significant, nonlinear decline in GMD with age, which was most rapid between 7 and about 60 years, over dorsal frontal and parietal association cortices on both the lateral and interhemispheric surfaces. Age effects were inverted in the left posterior temporal region, where GMD gain continued up to age 30 and then rapidly declined. The trajectory of maturational and aging effects varied considerably over the cortex. Visual, auditory and limbic cortices, which are known to myelinate early, showed a more linear pattern of aging than the frontal and parietal neocortices, which continue myelination into adulthood. Our findings also indicate that the posterior temporal cortices, primarily in the left hemisphere, which typically support language functions, have a more protracted course of maturation than any other cortical region.