Neurobiology of aging vol:33 issue:9 pages:1900-12
Aging is characterized by brain structural changes that may compromise motor functions. In the context of postural control, white matter integrity is crucial for the efficient transfer of visual, proprioceptive and vestibular feedback in the brain. To determine the role of age-related white matter decline as a function of the sensory feedback necessary to correct posture, we acquired diffusion weighted images in young and old subjects. A force platform was used to measure changes in body posture under conditions of compromised proprioceptive and/or visual feedback. In the young group, no significant brain structure-balance relations were found. In the elderly however, the integrity of a cluster in the frontal forceps explained 21% of the variance in postural control when proprioceptive information was compromised. Additionally, when only the vestibular system supplied reliable information, the occipital forceps was the best predictor of balance performance (42%). Age-related white matter decline may thus be predictive of balance performance in the elderly when sensory systems start to degrade.