Journal article

White matter integrity of motor connections related to training gains in healthy aging

Impaired motor skill acquisition is a feature of older age. Acquisition of new motor skills requires the interplay between different cortical motor areas. Using diffusion tensor imaging we reconstructed cortico-cortical connections between the primary motor cortex (M1) and secondary motor areas in 11 older and 11 young participants who took part in a motor skill acquisition paradigm with the nondominant left hand. Examining the extent to which tract-related integrity correlated with training gains we found that white matter integrity of fibers connecting contralateral M1 with both contralateral (r = 0.85) and ipsilateral supplementary motor areas (r = 0.92) were positively associated in old participants. Also, fibers connecting contralateral M1 with ipsilateral dorsal premotor (r = 0.82) and fibers connecting ipsilateral dorsal premotor and supplementary motor area (r = 0.88) were positively related to skill acquisition (all p < 0.05). A similar structure-behavior relationship was not present in the young control subjects suggesting a critical role of brain structural integrity for motor learning in healthy aging.


Related material