The striatum has recently been implicated as an area that may mediate age-associated cognitive decline because of diminution of volume and functional activity. We used 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) with positron emission tomography (PET) and high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the effects of age on striatal glucose metabolic rate and size in 70 healthy, normal subjects. During the FDG tracer uptake period, subjects performed a serial verbal learning task, based on the California Verbal Learning Test. PET images were co-registered to the MR images. The interrelations among striatal glucose metabolic rate, size, and performance on the verbal learning task were examined with repeated-measures analysis of variance and correlational analysis. As age increased, relative glucose metabolic rate (GMR) increased in the putamen and decreased in the caudate. Female subjects had lower relative GMR than male subjects in the caudate, but equal in the putamen. Striatal size remained relatively constant across the lifespan in men but was lower in women aged 50-70 than in men. While there were significant associations between striatal activity and performance on the uptake task, these findings were mostly accounted for by age. The findings are consistent with our earlier report on the same cohort that demonstrated an age-related shift from anterior to posterior cortical metabolism, as the putamen receives primarily posterior cortical input and the caudate receives relatively more anterior cortical input. Findings of significant involvement of striatal functioning in verbal learning are most likely accounted for by age and suggest an age-related shift from anterior to posterior circuitry in the human telencephalon.
- Normal aging
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
- Regional glucose metabolism
- Striatum (caudate and putamen)
- Verbal learning