Structural brain changes in aging are known to occur even in the absence of dementia, but the magnitudes and regions involved vary between studies. To further characterize these changes, we analyzed paired MRI images acquired with identical protocols and scanner over a median 5.8-year interval. The normal study group comprised 78 elders (25M 53F, baseline age range 70-78 years) who underwent an annual standardized expert assessment of cognition and health and who maintained normal cognition for the duration of the study. We found a longitudinal grey matter (GM) loss rate of 2.56 ± 0.07 ml/year (0.20 ± 0.04%/year) and a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) expansion rate of 2.97 ± 0.07 ml/year (0.22 ± 0.04%/year). Hippocampal volume loss rate was higher than the GM and CSF global rates, 0.0114 ± 0.0004 ml/year (0.49 ± 0.04%/year). Regions of greatest GM loss were posterior inferior frontal lobe, medial parietal lobe and dorsal cerebellum. Rates of GM loss and CSF expansion were on the low end of the range of other published values, perhaps due to the relatively good health of the elder volunteers in this study. An additional smaller group of 6 subjects diagnosed with MCI at baseline were followed as well, and comparisons were made with the normal group in terms of both global and regional GM loss and CSF expansion rates. An increased rate of GM loss was found in the hippocampus bilaterally for the MCI group.

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Published in AIMS Neuroscience, v. 7, issue 2.

© 2020 the Author(s), licensee AIMS Press.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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We gratefully acknowledge support from the United States National Institute of Aging, Grant # P30 AG028383.