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Cortex. 2008 Oct;44(9):1248-55. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2007.11.009. Epub 2008 Jan 20.

An fMRI study of the numerical Stroop task in individuals with and without minimal cognitive impairment.

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  • 1Innsbruck Medical University, Clinical Department of Paediatrics IV, Division of Neuropediatrics, Innsbruck, Austria.


Aim of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to dissociate normal aging and minimal cognitive impairment (MCI) concerning magnitude processing and interference control. We examined the neural correlates of a numerical Stroop task in elderly individuals with and without MCI. Fifteen elderly participants (six patients with MCI and nine controls) were subjected to a numerical Stroop task requiring numerical/physical magnitude classifications while inhibiting task-irrelevant stimulus dimensions. Effects of distance and congruity were examined. Behaviourally, robust distance and congruity effects were observed in both groups and tasks. Imaging baseline conditions revealed stronger and more distributed activations in MCI patients relative to controls which could not be explained by the higher error rates committed by patients. Across tasks, conjunction analysis revealed highly significant activations in intra-parietal and prefrontal regions suggesting that both groups recruit comparable brain regions upon processing magnitude and interference, respectively. MCI patients exhibited stronger pre-/postcentral and thalamic activations, possibly reflecting more effortful response-selection processes or alternatively, deficient inhibitory control. Moreover, MCI patients exhibited additional activations in fronto-parietal (magnitude) and occipital/cerebellar (congruity) regions. To summarize, though MCI patients needed to recruit more distributed activation patterns conjunction analysis revealed common activation sites in response to magnitude processing and interference control.

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