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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Nov 25;100(24):14504-9. Epub 2003 Nov 7.

Functional deactivations: change with age and dementia of the Alzheimer type.

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Department of Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.


Young adults typically deactivate specific brain regions during active task performance. Deactivated regions overlap with those that show reduced resting metabolic activity in aging and dementia, raising the possibility of a relation. Here, the magnitude and dynamic temporal properties of these typically deactivated regions were explored in aging by using functional MRI in 82 participants. Young adults (n = 32), older adults without dementia (n = 27), and older adults with early-stage dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) (n = 23) were imaged while alternating between blocks of an active semantic classification task and a passive fixation baseline. Deactivation in lateral parietal regions was equivalent across groups; in medial frontal regions, it was reduced by aging but was not reduced further by DAT. Of greatest interest, a medial parietal/ posterior cingulate region showed differences between young adults and older adults without dementia and an even more marked difference with DAT. The temporal profile of the medial parietal/posterior cingulate response suggested that it was initially activated by all three groups, but the response in young adults quickly reversed sign, whereas DAT individuals maintained activation throughout the task block. Exploratory whole-brain analyses confirmed the importance of medial parietal/posterior cingulate cortex differences in aging and DAT. These results introduce important opportunities to explore the functional properties of regions showing deactivations, how their dynamic functional properties relate to their baseline metabolic rates, and how they change with age and dementia.

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