HCP Aging

Studying the Aging Human Connectome

How Does Aging Affect Connections in the Brain?

The major technological and analytical advances in human brain imaging achieved as part of the Human Connectome Projects (HCP) enable examination of structural and functional brain connectivity at unprecedented levels of spatial and temporal resolution.This information is proving invaluable for enhancing our understanding of normative variation in young adult brain connectivity. It is now timely to use the tools and analytical approaches developed by the HCP to understand how structural and functional wiring of the brain changes during the aging process.  This study is to establish normative connectomics across the adult lifespan.

Research focus

  • Match protocols across 4 sites
  • Exclude major diagnosed disease, otherwise typical aging adults
  • Impact of systemic metabolic factors,stress, vascular health, and otherenvironmental factors on the brain
  • 300+ longitudinal cases

Data being collected

  • Lifespan MRI protocol
  • Vascular burden
    (obesity, hypertension, smoking)
  • Physical activity
  • Systemic health
  • Genetic status
  • Stress, sleep patterns, adversity

Study Aims

Aim 1 will be to optimize existing HCP Lifespan Pilot project protocols to respect practical constraints in studying adults over a wide age range, including the very old (80+ years).  

Aim 2 will be to collect high quality neuroimaging, behavioral, and other datasets on 1200 individuals in the age range of 36–100+ years, using matched protocols across sites.This will enable robust cross-sectional analyses of age-related changes in network properties including metrics of connectivity, network integrity, response properties during tasks, and behavior. 

Aim 3 will be to collect and analyze longitudinal data on a subset of 300 individuals in three understudied and scientifically interesting groups: ages 36-44 (when late maturational and early aging processes may co-occur); ages 45-59 (perimenopausal, when rapid hormonal changes can affect cognition and the brain); and ages 80–100+ (the‘very old’, whose brains may reflect a ‘healthy survivor’ state). The information gained relating to these important periods will enhance our understanding of how important phenomena such as hormonal changes affect the brain and will provide insights into factors that enable cognitively intact function into advanced aging. 

Aim 4 will capitalize on our success in sharing data in the Human Connectome Project (HCP), and will use these established tools, platforms,and procedures to make this data publicly available through the Connectome Coordination Facility.