Thalamic Structures and Associated Cognitive Functions: Relations with Age and Aging


Fama, R., & Sullivan, E. V. (2015). Thalamic structures and associated cognitive functions: Relations with age and aging. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 54, 29-37.


The thalamus, with its cortical, subcortical, and cerebellar connections, is a critical node in networks supporting cognitive functions known to decline in normal aging, including component processes of memory and executive functions of attention and information processing. The macrostructure, microstructure, and neural connectivity of the thalamus changes across the adult lifespan. Structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) have demonstrated, regional thalamic volume shrinkage and microstructural degradation, with anterior regions generally more compromised than posterior regions. The integrity of selective thalamic nuclei and projections decline with advancing age, particularly those in thalamofrontal, thalamoparietal, and thalamolimbic networks. This review presents studies that assess the relations between age and aging and the structure, function, and connectivity of the thalamus and associated neural networks and focuses on their relations with processes of attention, speed of information processing, and working and episodic memory.

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