Cognitive decline is commonly observed in advanced aging even in the absence of disease. Here we explore the possibility that normal aging is accompanied by disruptive alterations in the coordination of large-scale brain systems that support high-level cognition. In 93 adults aged 18 to 93, we demonstrate that aging is characterized by marked reductions in normally present functional correlations within two higher-order brain systems. Anterior to posterior components within the default network were most severely disrupted with age. Furthermore, correlation reductions were severe in older adults free from Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology as determined by amyloid imaging, suggesting that functional disruptions were not the result of AD. Instead, reduced correlations were associated with disruptions in white matter integrity and poor cognitive performance across a range of domains. These results suggest that cognitive decline in normal aging arises from functional disruption in the coordination of large-scale brain systems that support cognition.
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