Age-related delay in visual and auditory evoked responses is mediated by white-and grey-matter differences


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Slowing is a common feature of ageing, yet a direct relationship between neural slowing and brain atrophy is yet to be established in healthy humans. We combine magnetoencephalo-graphic (MEG) measures of neural processing speed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures of white and grey matter in a large population-derived cohort to investigate the relationship between age-related structural differences and visual evoked field (VEF) and auditory evoked field (AEF) delay across two different tasks. Here we use a novel technique to show that VEFs exhibit a constant delay, whereas AEFs exhibit delay that accumulates over time. White-matter (WM) microstructure in the optic radiation partially mediates visual delay, suggesting increased transmission time, whereas grey matter (GM) in auditory cortex partially mediates auditory delay, suggesting less efficient local processing. Our results demonstrate that age has dissociable effects on neural processing speed, and that these effects relate to different types of brain atrophy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15671
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN) research was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/H008217/1); R.N.H. is additionally supported by the UK Medical Research Council (MC_A060_5PR10); DP is supported by the UK Medical Research Council (MC_A060_5PR13). We are grateful to the Cam-CAN respondents and their primary care teams in Cambridge for their participation in this study. We also thank colleagues at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit MEG and MRI facilities for their assistance. Finally, we thank Dr Rousselet and two other reviewers for their helpful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2017.


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