The microstructural organization of the aging somatosensory cortex
Aging is a key phenomenon of modern societies. In Germany, the mean life expectancy is around 82 years (15 years above the international average), with further increases expected in upcoming years. Nevertheless, little is known about the precise organizational principles that underlie human cortical aging, and their behavioral consequences. Here, I summarize research where I used ultra-high field imaging at 7 Tesla to characterize the functional and structural organization of the human cortex > 65 years at the micro-scale (1mm and below). The primary somatosensory cortex (S1) and associated topographic maps were used as model system to understand the precise changes in layer-dependent cortical myelin and iron levels that occur with increasing age, the associated changes in the functional architecture of the system, and their relation to age-related changes in behavior. I will use an embodied framework of human cognition to integrate these findings with concepts on the neuronal mechanisms that underlie altered cognitive functions in advanced age.
Affiliation: Otto von Guericke Universität Magdeburg