Disease Burden Affects Aging Brain Function

Lori L. Beason-Held, Danielle Fournier, Andrea T. Shafer, Elisa Fabbri, Yang An, Huang Chiung-Wei, Murat Bilgel, Dean F. Wong, Luigi Ferrucci, Susan M. Resnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Most older adults live with multiple chronic disease conditions, yet the effect of multiple diseases on brain function remains unclear. Methods: We examine the relationship between disease multimorbidity and brain activity using regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) 15O-water PET scans from 97 cognitively normal participants (mean baseline age 76.5) in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA). Multimorbidity index scores, generated from the presence of 13 health conditions, were correlated with PET data at baseline and in longitudinal change (n = 74) over 5.05 (2.74 SD) years. Results: At baseline, voxel-based analysis showed that higher multimorbidity scores were associated with lower relative activity in orbitofrontal, superior frontal, temporal pole and parahippocampal regions, and greater activity in lateral temporal, occipital, and cerebellar regions. Examination of the individual health conditions comprising the index score showed hypertension and chronic kidney disease individually contributed to the overall multimorbidity pattern of altered activity. Longitudinally, both increases and decreases in activity were seen in relation to increasing multimorbidity over time. These associations were identified in orbitofrontal, lateral temporal, brainstem, and cerebellar areas. Conclusion: Together, these results show that greater multimorbidity is associated with widespread areas of altered brain activity, supporting a link between health and changes in aging brain function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1810-1818
Number of pages9
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022


  • Brain activity
  • Health
  • Imaging
  • MRI
  • PET


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