Heterogeneity of structural and functional imaging patterns of advanced brain aging revealed via machine learning methods

Harini Eavani, Mohamad Habes, Theodore D. Satterthwaite, Yang An, Meng Kang Hsieh, Nicolas Honnorat, Guray Erus, Jimit Doshi, Luigi Ferrucci, Lori L. Beason-Held, Susan M. Resnick, Christos Davatzikos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Disentangling the heterogeneity of brain aging in cognitively normal older adults is challenging, as multiple co-occurring pathologic processes result in diverse functional and structural changes. Capitalizing on machine learning methods applied to magnetic resonance imaging data from 400 participants aged 50 to 96 years in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, we constructed normative cross-sectional brain aging trajectories of structural and functional changes. Deviations from typical trajectories identified individuals with resilient brain aging and multiple subtypes of advanced brain aging. We identified 5 distinct phenotypes of advanced brain aging. One group included individuals with relatively extensive structural and functional loss and high white matter hyperintensity burden. Another subgroup showed focal hippocampal atrophy and lower posterior-cingulate functional coherence, low white matter hyperintensity burden, and higher medial-temporal connectivity, potentially reflecting high brain tissue reserve counterbalancing brain loss that is consistent with early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Other subgroups displayed distinct patterns. These results indicate that brain changes should not be measured seeking a single signature of brain aging but rather via methods capturing heterogeneity and subtypes of brain aging. Our findings inform future studies aiming to better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of brain aging imaging patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages10
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional connectivity
  • Heterogeneity brain aging
  • Resting-state fMRI
  • Structural MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • General Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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