SRI Authors: Tilman Schulte, Adolf Pfefferbaum
Schulte, T., Maddah, M., Muller-Oehring, E. M., Rohlfing, T., Pfefferbaum, A., & Sullivan, E. V. (2013). Fiber tract-driven topographical mapping (FTTM) reveals microstructural relevance for interhemispheric visuomotor function in the aging brain. NeuroImage, 77, 195-206. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.03.056
We present a novel approach – DTI-based fiber tract-driven topographical mapping (FTTM) – to map and measure the influence of age on the integrity of interhemispheric fibers and challenge their selective functions with measures of interhemispheric integration of lateralized information. This approach enabled identification of spatially specific topographical maps of scalar diffusion measures and their relation to measures of visuomotor performance. Relative to younger adults, older adults showed lower fiber integrity indices in anterior than posterior callosal fibers. FTTM analysis identified a dissociation in the microstructural-function associates between age groups: in younger adults, genu fiber integrity correlated with interhemispheric transfer time, whereas in older adults, body fiber integrity was correlated with interhemispheric transfer time with topographical specificity along left-lateralized callosal fiber trajectories. Neural co-activation from redundant targets was evidenced by fMRI-derived bilateral extrastriate cortex activation in both groups, and a group difference emerged for a pontine activation cluster that was differently modulated by response hand in older than younger adults. Bilateral processing advantages in older but not younger adults further correlated with fiber integrity in transverse pontine fibers that branch into the right cerebellar cortex, thereby supporting a role for the pons in interhemispheric facilitation. In conclusion, in the face of compromised anterior callosal fibers, older adults appear to use alternative pathways to accomplish visuomotor interhemispheric information transfer and integration for lateralized processing. This shift from youthful associations may indicate recruitment of compensatory mechanisms involving medial corpus callosum fibers and subcortical pathways.