Prior studies have demonstrated decreasing cerebral blood flow (CBF) in normal aging, but the full spatial pattern and potential mechanism of changes in CBF remain to be elucidated. Specifically, existing data have not been entirely consistent regarding the spatial distribution of such changes, potentially a result of neglecting the effect of age-related tissue atrophy in CBF measurements. In this work, we use pulsed arterial-spin labelling to quantify regional CBF in 86 cognitively and physically healthy adults, aged 23 to 88 years. Surface-based analyses were utilized to map regional decline in CBF and cortical thickness with advancing age, and to examine the spatial associations and dissociations between these metrics. Our results demonstrate regionally selective age-related reductions in cortical perfusion, involving the superior-frontal, orbito-frontal, superior-parietal, middle-inferior temporal, insular, precuneus, supramarginal, lateral-occipital and cingulate regions, while subcortical CBF was relatively preserved in aging. Regional effects of age on CBF differed from that of grey-matter atrophy. In addition, the pattern of CBF associations with age displays an interesting similarity with the default-mode network. These findings demonstrate the dissociation between regional CBF and structural alterations specific to normal aging, and augment our understanding of mechanisms of pathology in older adults.
Keywords: Cerebral blood flow (CBF), aging, arterial-spin labelling (ASL), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), quantitative perfusion, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, cortical thickness, cerebral cortex