Age-related delay in visual and auditory evoked responses is mediated by white- and grey-matter differences.

24 Nov 2017

Slowing is a common feature of ageing, yet a direct relationship between neural slowing and brain atrophy is yet to be established in healthy humans. We combine magnetoencephalographic (MEG) measures of neural processing speed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures of white and grey matter in a large population-derived cohort to investigate the relationship between age-related structural differences and visual evoked field (VEF) and auditory evoked field (AEF) delay across two different tasks. Here we use a novel technique to show that VEFs exhibit a constant delay, whereas AEFs exhibit delay that accumulates over time. White-matter (WM) microstructure in the optic radiation partially mediates visual delay, suggesting increased transmission time, whereas grey matter (GM) in auditory cortex partially mediates auditory delay, suggesting less efficient local processing. Our results demonstrate that age has dissociable effects on neural processing speed, and that these effects relate to different types of brain atrophy.