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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Mar;1124:127-44. doi: 10.1196/annals.1440.009.

Cognitive neuroscience of aging.

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Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, 3560 Bathurst St., Toronto, Ontario M6A 2E1, Canada.


The number of reports on the cognitive neuroscience of aging has increased in recent years, and most of these studies have found many similarities in the patterns of activity in young and old adults, indicating that basic neural mechanisms are maintained into older age. Despite these overall similarities, older adults often have less activity in some regions, such as medial temporal areas during memory processing and visual regions across a variety of cognitive domains. It seems clear that age reductions in cognitive function can be tied, at least in part, to these reductions in brain activity. On the other hand, older adults typically also overrecruit some brain areas, mainly the ventral or dorsal prefrontal cortex during memory tasks, as well as both the frontal and parietal regions during tasks engaging cognitive control processes, such as attention. Sometimes this overrecruitment appears to be in response to altered function in other brain regions and is often seen in those older adults who perform better on the task at hand. These findings have provided rather convincing support for the idea that overrecruitment can be compensatory in the elderly. Nevertheless, not all age increases can be interpreted as compensatory, and some are more indicative of neural inefficiency. The challenge facing future research will be to understand the task conditions that promote compensation in older adults, the role of the various brain areas in aiding cognitive function, and how these compensatory mechanisms can be elicited to enhance quality of life in the elderly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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