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Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Dec;39(12):5085-5096. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24347. Epub 2018 Aug 16.

Structural and functional cerebral bases of diminished inhibitory control during healthy aging.

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Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, New York.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
VA Connecticut Healthcare Systems, West Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, Beijing, China.


Inhibitory control or the ability to refrain from incorrect responses is a critical executive function known to diminish during aging. Imaging studies have elucidated cerebral changes that may underlie the age-related deficits. However, it remains unclear whether the structural and functional changes occur in the same brain regions and whether reduced gray matter volumes (GMV) mediate decreased activation during inhibition. Here, in a sample of 149 participants, we addressed the issues using structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging. Individual's response inhibition was evaluated by the stop signal reaction time (SSRT) in a stop signal task. The results showed that age was associated with prolonged SSRT across participants. Many cortical and subcortical regions demonstrated age-related reduction in GMV and activation to response inhibition. Additionally, age-related diminution in inhibitory control, as indexed by the SSRT, was associated with both shared and distinct morphometric and functional changes. Voxel-based morphometry demonstrated age-related reduction in GMV in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and caudate head as well as bilateral insula, in association with prolonged SSRT. In a contrast of stop success versus go success trials, age was associated with lower activation in the medial and inferior frontal cortex and inferior parietal cortex. Further, reduction in GMV mediated age-related differences in activations only of the medial prefrontal cortex, providing limited evidence for structure function association. Thus, the decline in inhibitory control, as evidenced in the stop signal task, manifest with both shared and distinct structural and functional processes during aging.


VBM; aging; fMRI; inhibitory control

[Available on 2019-12-01]

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