Abstract

Both physical and cognitive deficits occur in the aging process. We operationally defined the phenomenon as physio-cognitive decline syndrome (PCDS) and aimed to decipher its corresponding neuroanatomy patterns and neurocircuit. High resolution 3T brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images from a community-dwelling longitudinal aging cohort were analysed. PCDS was defined as weakness (handgrip strength) and/or slowness (gait speed) concomitant with impairment in any cognitive domain (defined by 1.5 standard deviation below age, sex-matched norms), but without dementia or disability. Among 1196 eligible ≥ 50-year-old (62±9 years, 47.6%men) subjects, 15.9% had PCDS. Compared to the other participants, individuals with PCDS had significantly lower gray-matter volume (GMV) in the bilateral amygdala and thalamus, right hippocampus, right temporo-occipital cortex, and left cerebellum VI and V regions. The regions of reduced GMV in people with PCDS were similar between the middle-aged and older adults; whereas larger clusters with more extensive GMV-depleted regions were observed in ≥65-year-olds with PCDS. Diffusion-weighted tractography showed disrupted hippocampus-amygdala-cerebellum connections in subjects with PCDS. The neuroanatomic characteristics revealed by this study provide evidence for pathophysiological processes associated with concomitant physio-cognitive decline in the elderly. This neurocircuit might constitute a target for future preventive interventions.