White matter integrity as a marker for cognitive plasticity in aging.
de Lange A-MG., Bråthen ACS., Grydeland H., Sexton C., Johansen-Berg H., Andersson JLR., Rohani DA., Nyberg L., Fjell AM., Walhovd KB.
Age-related differences in white matter (WM) integrity are substantial, but it is unknown whether between-subject variability in WM integrity influences the capacity for cognitive improvement. We investigated the effects of memory training related to active and passive control conditions in older adults and tested whether WM integrity at baseline was predictive of training benefits. We hypothesized that (1) memory improvement would be restricted to the training group, (2) widespread areas would show greater mean diffusivity (MD) and lower fractional anisotropy in older adults relative to young adults, and (3) within these areas, variability in WM microstructure in the older group would be predictive of training gains. The results showed that only the group receiving training improved their memory. Significant age differences in MD and fractional anisotropy were found in widespread areas. Within these areas, voxelwise analyses showed a negative relationship between MD and memory improvement in 3 clusters, indicating that WM integrity could serve as a marker for the ability to adapt in response to cognitive challenges in aging.