Sensorimotor cortex neurometabolite levels as correlate of motor performance in normal aging: evidence from a 1H-MRS study

Oron Levin, Akila Weerasekera, Bradley R. King, Kirstin F. Heise, Diana M. Sima, Sima Chalavi, Celine Maes, Ronald Peeters, Stefan Sunaert, Koen Cuypers, Sabine Van Huffel, Dante Mantini, Uwe Himmelreich, Stephan P. Swinnen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aging is associated with gradual alterations in the neurochemical characteristics of the brain, which can be assessed in-vivo with proton-magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS). However, the impact of these age-related neurochemical changes on functional motor behavior is still poorly understood. Here, we address this knowledge gap and specifically focus on the neurochemical integrity of the left sensorimotor cortex (SM1) and the occipital lobe (OCC), as both regions are main nodes of the visuomotor network underlying bimanual control. 1H-MRS data and performance on a set of bimanual tasks were collected from a lifespan (20–75 years) sample of 86 healthy adults. Results indicated that aging was accompanied by decreased levels of N-acetylaspartate (NAA), glutamate-glutamine (Glx), creatine ​+ ​phosphocreatine (Cr) and myo-inositol (mI) in both regions, and decreased Choline (Cho) in the OCC region. Lower NAA and Glx levels in the SM1 and lower NAA levels in the OCC were related to poorer performance on a visuomotor bimanual coordination task, suggesting that NAA could serve as a potential biomarker for the integrity of the motor system supporting bimanual control. In addition, lower NAA, Glx, and mI levels in the SM1 were found to be correlates of poorer dexterous performance on a bimanual dexterity task. These findings highlight the role for 1H-MRS to study neurochemical correlates of motor performance across the adult lifespan.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116050
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2019


  • Aging
  • Coordination
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Motor control
  • Neurometabolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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