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Neurobiol Aging. 2017 Dec;60:153-163. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.08.027. Epub 2017 Sep 5.

Dynamic range in BOLD modulation: lifespan aging trajectories and association with performance.

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Center for Vital Longevity, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA. Electronic address:
Center for Vital Longevity, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA.


Alteration of dynamic range of modulation to cognitive difficulty has been proposed as a salient predictor of cognitive aging. Here, we examine in 171 adults (aged 20-94 years) the effects of age on dynamic modulation of blood oxygenation-level dependent activation to difficulty in parametrically increasing working memory (WM) load (0-, 2-, 3-, and 4-back conditions). First, we examined parametric increases and decreases in activation to increasing WM load (positive modulation effect and negative modulation effect). Second, we examined the effect of age on modulation to difficulty (WM load) to identify regions that differed with age as difficulty increased (age-related positive and negative modulation effects). Weakened modulation to difficulty with age was found in both the positive modulation (middle frontal, superior/inferior parietal) and negative modulation effect (deactivated) regions (insula, cingulate, medial superior frontal, fusiform, and parahippocampal gyri, hippocampus, and lateral occipital cortex). Age-related alterations to positive modulation emerged later in the lifespan than negative modulation. Furthermore, these effects were significantly coupled in that greater upmodulation was associated with lesser downmodulation. Importantly, greater fronto-parietal upmodulation to difficulty and greater downmodulation of deactivated regions were associated with better task accuracy and upmodulation with better WM span measured outside the scanner. These findings suggest that greater dynamic range of modulation of activation to cognitive challenge is in service of current task performance, as well as generalizing to cognitive ability beyond the scanner task, lending support to its utility as a marker of successful cognitive aging.


Aging; Coupling; Difficulty modulation; Working memory; fMRI; n-back

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