Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a clustering of three or more cardiovascular risk factors (RF), including hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, or hyperglycemia. MetS and its component RFs are more prevalent in older age, and can be accompanied by alterations in brain structure. Studies have shown altered functional connectivity (FC) in samples with individual RFs as well as in clinical populations that are at higher risk to develop MetS. These studies have indicated that the default mode network (DMN) may be particularly vulnerable, yet little is known about the overall impact of MetS on FC in this network.
In this study, we evaluated the integrity of FC to the DMN in participants with MetS relative to non‐MetS individuals. Using a seed‐based connectivity analysis approach, resting‐state functional MRI (fMRI) data were analyzed, and the FC measures among the DMN seed (isthmus of the cingulate) and rest of the brain voxels were estimated.
Participants with MetS demonstrated reduced positive connectivity between the DMN seed and left superior frontal regions, and reduced negative connectivity between the DMN seed and left superior parietal, left postcentral, right precentral, right superior temporal and right superior parietal regions, after accounting for age‐ and sex‐effects.
Our results suggest that MetS is associated with alterations in FC between the DMN and other regions of the brain. Furthermore, these results indicate that the overall burden of vascular RFs associated with MetS may, in part, contribute to the pathophysiology underlying aberrant FC in the DMN.