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Neuroimaging in the Oldest-Old: A Review of the Literature.


The oldest-old, those 85 years and older, are the fastest growing segment of the population and present with the highest prevalence of dementia. Given the importance of neuroimaging measures to understand aging and dementia, the objective of this study was to review neuroimaging studies performed in oldest-old participants. We used PubMed, Google Scholar, and Web of Science search engines to identify in vivo CT, MRI, and PET neuroimaging studies either performed in the oldest-old or that addressed the oldest-old as a distinct group in analyses. We identified 60 studies and summarized the main group characteristics and findings. Generally, oldest-old participants presented with greater atrophy compared to younger old participants, with most studies reporting a relatively stable constant decline in brain volumes over time. Oldest-old participants with greater global atrophy and atrophy in key brain structures such as the medial temporal lobe were more likely to have dementia or cognitive impairment. The oldest-old presented with a high burden of white matter lesions, which were associated with various lifestyle factors and some cognitive measures. Amyloid burden as assessed by PET, while high in the oldest-old compared to younger age groups, was still predictive of transition from normal to impaired cognition, especially when other adverse neuroimaging measures (atrophy and white matter lesions) were also present. While this review highlights past neuroimaging research in the oldest-old, it also highlights the dearth of studies in this important population. It is imperative to perform more neuroimaging studies in the oldest-old to better understand aging and dementia.

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