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Neurobiol Aging. 2016 May;41:159-172. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2016.02.020. Epub 2016 Mar 3.

Age differences in the functional interactions among the default, frontoparietal control, and dorsal attention networks.

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Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Electronic address:
Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.


Older adults typically show weaker functional connectivity (FC) within brain networks compared with young adults, but stronger functional connections between networks. Our primary aim here was to use a graph theoretical approach to identify age differences in the FC of 3 networks-default mode network (DMN), dorsal attention network, and frontoparietal control (FPC)-during rest and task conditions and test the hypothesis that age differences in the FPC would influence age differences in the other networks, consistent with its role as a cognitive "switch." At rest, older adults showed lower clustering values compared with the young, and both groups showed more between-network connections involving the FPC than the other 2 networks, but this difference was greater in the older adults. Connectivity within the DMN was reduced in older compared with younger adults. Consistent with our hypothesis, between-network connections of the FPC at rest predicted the age-related reduction in connectivity within the DMN. There was no age difference in within-network FC during the task (after removing the specific task effect), but between-network connections were greater in older adults than in young adults for the FPC and dorsal attention network. In addition, age reductions were found in almost all the graph metrics during the task condition, including clustering and modularity. Finally, age differences in between-network connectivity of the FPC during both rest and task predicted cognitive performance. These findings provide additional evidence of less within-network but greater between-network FC in older adults during rest but also show that these age differences can be altered by the residual influence of task demands on background connectivity. Our results also support a role for the FPC as the regulator of other brain networks in the service of cognition. Critically, the link between age differences in inter-network connections of the FPC and DMN connectivity, and the link between FPC connectivity and performance, support the hypothesis that FC of the FPC influences the expression of age differences in other networks, as well as differences in cognitive function.


Aging; Cognitive control; Frontoparietal control network; Functional connectivity; Graph theory; Memory; fMRI

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