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Mapping of normal brain aging: unprecedented results from the SENIOR cohort

​The SENIOR study, conducted by several NeuroSpin teams, consists in monitoring, since March 2012, a cohort of 100 subjects aged 50 to 70 years by annual MRI imaging over a period of 10 years, to establish a normal aging brain imaging biomarkers mapping. This publication in Alzheimer's Research & Therapy describes the baseline experimental protocol and presents first promising results.

Published on 4 August 2020

Current demographic trends point towards an aging society entailing increasing occurrence and burden of neurodegenerative diseases. In this context, understanding physiological aging and its turning point into neurodegeneration is essential for the development of possible biomarkers and future therapeutics of brain disease.

The SENIOR study represents a longitudinal, observational study including cognitively healthy elderlies aged between 50 and 70 years old at the time of inclusion, being followed annually over 10 years. The multimodal protocol used here includes structural, diffusion, functional, and sodium magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 3 T and 7 T, positron emission tomography (PET), blood samples, genetics, audiometry, and neuropsychological and neurological examinations as well as assessment of neuronal risk factors.

One hundred forty-two participants (50% females) were enrolled in the SENIOR cohort with a mean age of 60 (SD 6.3) years at baseline. Baseline results with multiple regression analyses reveal that cerebral white matter lesions can be predicted by cardiovascular and cognitive risk factors and age. Division of the cohort into subjects with a higher and lower risk profile shows significant differences in intra-subject across-test variability and volumes as well as cortical thickness of brain regions of the temporal lobe. There is no difference between the lower- and higher-risk groups in amyloid load using PET data from a subset of 81 subjects.

NeuroSpin scientists describe here the study protocol and baseline findings of the SENIOR observational study which aim is the establishment of integrated, multiparametric maps of normal aging and the identification of early biomarkers for neurodegeneration. Baseline findings will be used as underlying basis for the further implications of aging and neuronal degeneration as well as examination of brain aging under different aspects of brain pathology versus physiological aging.

SENIOR study: Characterization of normal cerebral aging (blue dotted lines) compared to pathological aging (orange dotted lines). © A. Haeger/CEA

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