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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Neuroscience - Physiology - Radiology and Medical Imaging

Sparse Representation of Brain Aging: Extracting Covariance Patterns from Structural MRI
Published: Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Author: Longfei Su et al.

by Longfei Su, Lubin Wang, Fanglin Chen, Hui Shen, Baojuan Li, Dewen Hu

An enhanced understanding of how normal aging alters brain structure is urgently needed for the early diagnosis and treatment of age-related mental diseases. Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a reliable technique used to detect age-related changes in the human brain. Currently, multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) enables the exploration of subtle and distributed changes of data obtained from structural MRI images. In this study, a new MVPA approach based on sparse representation has been employed to investigate the anatomical covariance patterns of normal aging. Two groups of participants (group 1:290 participants; group 2:56 participants) were evaluated in this study. These two groups were scanned with two 1.5 T MRI machines. In the first group, we obtained the discriminative patterns using a t-test filter and sparse representation step. We were able to distinguish the young from old cohort with a very high accuracy using only a few voxels of the discriminative patterns (group 1:98.4%; group 2:96.4%). The experimental results showed that the selected voxels may be categorized into two components according to the two steps in the proposed method. The first component focuses on the precentral and postcentral gyri, and the caudate nucleus, which play an important role in sensorimotor tasks. The strongest volume reduction with age was observed in these clusters. The second component is mainly distributed over the cerebellum, thalamus, and right inferior frontal gyrus. These regions are not only critical nodes of the sensorimotor circuitry but also the cognitive circuitry although their volume shows a relative resilience against aging. Considering the voxels selection procedure, we suggest that the aging of the sensorimotor and cognitive brain regions identified in this study has a covarying relationship with each other.