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Soc Neurosci. 2007;2(2):117-33. doi: 10.1080/17470910701399029.

Aging, self-referencing, and medial prefrontal cortex.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The lateral prefrontal cortex undergoes both structural and functional changes with healthy aging. In contrast, there is little structural change in the medial prefrontal cortex, but relatively little is known about the functional changes to this region with age. Using an event-related fMRI design, we investigated the response of medial prefrontal cortex during self-referencing in order to compare age groups on a task that young and elderly perform similarly and that is known to actively engage the region in young adults. Nineteen young (M age = 23) and seventeen elderly (M age = 72) judged whether adjectives described themselves, another person, or were presented in upper case. We assessed the overlap in activations between young and elderly for the self-reference effect (self vs. other person), and found that both groups engage medial prefrontal cortex and mid-cingulate during self-referencing. The only cerebral differences between the groups in self versus other personality assessment were found in somatosensory and motor-related areas. In contrast, age-related modulations were found in the cerebral network recruited for emotional valence processing. Elderly (but not young) showed increased activity in the dorsal prefrontal cortex for positive relative to negative items, which could reflect an increase in controlled processing of positive information for elderly adults.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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