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Handb Clin Neurol. 2019;163:369-389. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-804281-6.00020-3.

Aging of the frontal lobe.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States; Neuroscape, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States.
2
Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States; Departments of Physiology and Psychiatry, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States; Neuroscape, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States. Electronic address: adam.gazzaley@ucsf.edu.

Abstract

Healthy aging is associated with numerous deficits in cognitive function, which have been attributed to changes within the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This chapter summarizes some of the most prominent cognitive changes associated with age-related alterations in the anatomy and physiology of the PFC. Specifically, aging of the PFC results in deficient aspects of cognitive control, including sustained attention, selective attention, inhibitory control, working memory, and multitasking abilities. Yet, not all cognitive functions associated with the PFC exhibit age-related declines, such as arithmetic, comprehension, emotion perception, and emotional control. Moreover, not all older adults exhibit declines in cognition. Multiple life-course and lifestyle factors, as well as genetics, play a role in the trajectory of cognitive performance across the life span. Thus many adults retain cognitive function well into advanced age. Moreover, the brain remains plastic throughout life and there is increasing evidence that most age-related declines in cognition can be remediated by various methods such as physical exercise, cognitive training, or noninvasive brain stimulation. Overall, because cognitive aging is associated with numerous life-course and lifestyle factors, successful aging likely begins in early life, while maintaining cognition or remediating declines is a life-long process.

KEYWORDS:

Aging; Dopamine; Inhibitory control; Multitasking; Prefrontal cortex; Selective attention; Sustained attention; Working memory

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