Hippocampal network connections account for differences in memory performance in the middle-aged rhesus monkey



Recent neurophysiological and functional neuroimaging studies suggest that the memory decline found with normal aging is not solely due to regional disruptions in the hippocampus, but also is brought about by alterations in the functional coupling between the hippocampus and long-distance neocortical regions. However, the anatomical basis for this functional “dyscoupling” has not been fully revealed. In this study, we applied a multimodal magnetic resonance imaging technique to noninvasively examine the large-scale anatomical and functional hippocampal network of a group of middle aged rhesus monkeys. Using diffusion spectrum imaging, we have found that monkeys with lower memory performance had weaker structural white matter connections between the hippocampus and neocortical association areas. Resting state functional imaging revealed somewhat of an opposite result. Monkeys with low memory performance displayed elevated coupling strengths in the network between the hippocampus and the neocortical areas. Taken together with recent findings, this contradictory pattern may be the result of either underlying physiological burden or abnormal neuronal decoupling due to the structural alterations, which induce a neuronal compensation mechanism for the structural loss or interference on task related neuronal activation, respectively. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.