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Neurobiol Aging. 2010 Feb;31(2):315-27. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2008.03.012.

Effects of aging on functional connectivity of the amygdala during negative evaluation: a network analysis of fMRI data.

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  • 1Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.


Previous evidence has suggested both preserved emotional function in aging and age-related differences in emotional processing, but the neural networks underlying such processing alterations in the context of preserved affective function are not clear. Using event-related fMRI, we scanned young and older adults while they made valence ratings for emotional pictures. Behavioral results showed a similar pattern of emotional evaluation, but older adults experienced negatively valenced pictures as being less negative. Consistent with behavioral findings, we identified common activity in the right amygdala, but age-related differences in the functional connectivity of this region with the rest of the brain. Compared to young adults, older adults had greater functional connectivity between the right amygdala and ventral anterior cingulate cortex, possibly reflecting increased emotional regulation. Conversely, older adults showed decreased functional connectivity with posterior brain regions, likely reflecting decreased perceptual processing. Thus, age-related differences in evaluating negatively valenced stimuli might reflect decreased perceptual processing of these stimuli, as well as the engagement of control processes that inhibit the response to negative emotion.

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