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Neurobiol Aging. 2013 Sep;34(9):2183-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2013.03.013. Epub 2013 Apr 13.

Differential effects of age on subcomponents of response inhibition.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Mainz, Germany.


Inhibitory deficits contribute to cognitive decline in the aging brain. Separating subcomponents of response inhibition may help to resolve contradictions in the existing literature. A total of 49 healthy participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a Go/no-go-, a Simon-, and a Stop-signal task. Regression analyses were conducted to identify correlations of age and activation patterns. Imaging results revealed a differential effect of age on subcomponents of response inhibition. In a simple Go/no-go task (no spatial discrimination), aging was associated with increased activation of the core inhibitory network and parietal areas. In the Simon task, which required spatial discrimination, increased activation in additional inhibitory control regions was present. However, in the Stop-signal task, the most demanding of the three tasks, aging was associated with decreased activation. This suggests that older adults increasingly recruit the inhibitory network and, with increasing load, additional inhibitory regions. However, if inhibitory load exceeds compensatory capacity, performance declines in concert with decreasing activation. Thus, the present findings may refine current theories of cognitive aging.

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