Relative contributions of the cerebellar vermis and prefrontal lobe volumes on cognitive function across the adult lifespan.Neurobiol Aging 2009; 30(3):457-65NA
Recent research has revealed significant relationships between the vermian regions of the cerebellum and cognitive functions typically associated with prefrontal lobe function. These relationships are believed to be supported by anatomical connections between the distant brain regions. Recent evidence also suggests that age-related reductions in the posterior vermis are associated with age-related decline in frontal lobe cognitive functions, but these studies did not consider concomitant age-related atrophy of the prefrontal lobes. In the present study we addressed this issue by examining cognitive and structural MRI data obtained from 251 adults ranging in age from 18 to 79. Cognition was examined with a computerized cognitive battery and volumes of the cerebellar vermian regions and the prefrontal lobes were determined using quantitative morphometry. Results of the study revealed that both prefrontal and vermian volumes were smaller in older adults compared to younger adults, and both volumes correlated with cognitive performances in the older individuals. However, after controlling for prefrontal volume, the relationships between cognitive function and vermian volumes were eliminated, whereas prefrontal lobe volume remained significantly related to cognitive function after controlling for vermian volumes. These results suggest that while a reduction in cerebellar vermian volume does not significantly relate to normal age-related cognitive decline, prefrontal volume is significantly related to cognitive aging. Our results are consistent with the frontal aging hypothesis.