White matter loss in healthy ageing: A postmortem analysis

O. Piguet*, K. L. Double, J. J. Kril, J. Harasty, V. Macdonald, D. A. McRitchie, G. M. Halliday

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Age-related brain changes are widely documented. Because of differences in measurement methods and case selection, the reported effects of age on regional grey and white matter brain volumes, however, are much more pronounced and widespread in neuroimaging than in postmortem studies. Consequently, the magnitude of the effect that is specific to chronological age remains unresolved. We present postmortem volume measurements for 26 cortical, subcortical and white matter regions, in 24 human brains aged 46-92 years, free of neuropathological abnormalities. Significant age-related loss was observed in anterior and posterior white matter but not in total grey matter volumes. Further analyses on five cortical subregions previously reported to exhibit large age-related loss on MRI yielded negative results. These analyses demonstrate smaller changes with age than those reported in imaging studies. Although this discrepancy between postmortem and imaging studies may partly be explained by the increase in noise of the neuroimaging data with age, our results suggest that healthy brain ageing is a process affecting predominantly white matter not grey matter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1288-1295
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Brain measurements
  • Grey matter
  • MRI
  • Point counting
  • Volumetric
  • White matter


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