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Neurobiol Aging. 2013 Sep;34(9):2164-74. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2013.03.019. Epub 2013 Apr 17.

Distinct manifestations of executive dysfunction in aged rats.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL 32610-0244, USA.


Different components of executive function such as working memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility can be dissociated behaviorally and mechanistically; however, the within-subject influences of normal aging on different aspects of executive function remain ill-defined. To better define these relationships, young adult and aged male F344 rats were cross-characterized on an attentional set-shifting task that assesses cognitive flexibility and a delayed response task that assesses working memory. Across tasks, aged rats were impaired relative to young; however, there was significant variability in individual performance within the aged cohort. Notably, performance on the set-shifting task and performance at long delays on the delayed response task were inversely related among aged rats. Additional experiments showed no relationship between aged rats' performance on the set-shifting task and performance on a hippocampal-dependent spatial reference memory task. These data indicate that normal aging can produce distinct manifestations of executive dysfunction, and support the need to better understand the unique mechanisms contributing to different forms of prefrontal cortical-supported executive decline across the lifespan.

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