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Front Aging Neurosci. 2018 Dec 17;10:410. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2018.00410. eCollection 2018.

Dissociable Effects of Aging on Salience Subnetwork Connectivity Mediate Age-Related Changes in Executive Function and Affect.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.
2
Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.
3
Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, United States.
4
Psychiatric Neuroimaging Division, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.
5
Frontotemporal Disorders Unit, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.

Abstract

Aging is associated with both changes in affective experience and attention. An intrinsic brain network subserving these functions, the salience network, has not shown clear evidence of a corresponding age-related change. We propose a solution to this discrepancy: that aging differentially affects the connectivity of two dissociated subsystems of the salience network identified in our prior research (Touroutoglou et al., 2012). We examined the age-related changes in intrinsic connectivity between a dorsal and a ventral salience subsystem in a sample of 111 participants ranging in age from 18 years to 81 years old. We predicted that connectivity within the ventral subsystem is relatively preserved with age, while connectivity in the dorsal subsystem declines. Our findings showed that the connectivity within the ventral subsystem was not only preserved but it actually increased with age, whereas the connectivity within the dorsal subsystem decreased with age. Furthermore, age-related increase in arousal experience was partially mediated by age-related increases in ventral salience subsystem, whereas age-related decline in executive function was fully mediated by age-related decreases in dorsal salience subsystem connectivity. These findings explain previously conflicting results on age-related changes in the salience network, and suggest a mechanism for relatively preserved affective function in the elderly.

KEYWORDS:

aging; arousal; executive function; resting-state fMRI; salience network subsystems

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