Functional neuroimaging indicators of successful executive control in the oldest old

C. Rosano, H. Aizenstein, J. Cochran, J. Saxton, S. De Kosky, A. B. Newman, L. H. Kuller, O. L. Lopez, Cameron S Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Attentional control, motor planning abilities, and executive cognitive functions (ECF) rapidly decline with age. In particular, older adults experience difficulty in manipulating selected motor responses in the presence of conflicting or distracting information. To examine age-related changes in the neural substrates of the attentional and motor planning components of ECF, we assessed the patterns of brain activation in 8 cognitively normal older adults (mean age 81.5) and 20 young individuals (mean age 23.0) while they responded to low and high loads of attentional demands of the Preparing to Overcome Prepotency (POP) task. In the POP task, the selection of one out of two possible motor responses in the presence of increasing attentional task loads determines the accuracy of the performance. Older individuals were slower than young adults (P < 0.001) but achieved a strikingly high accuracy similar to the young group (P = 0.2), regardless of the task load. Both groups showed a load-related fMRI signal increase in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), posterior parietal cortex (PPC: Brodmann areas 7 and 40), and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dLPFC: Brodmann areas 9, 45, and 46) bilaterally. Compared to young individuals, older adults had lower activation in dLPFC (Brodmann areas 9, 45, and 46: P = 0.007, P = 0.043, and P = 0.040) and Brodmann area 7, P = 0.002. Activation in Brodmann areas 40 and ACC was similar in the two groups (P > 0.05). Among older adults, the most successful performers were those who responded to increasing task loads with greater activation in PPC (Brodmann area 40), despite lower dLPFC activation. Older adults who are able to perform executive control tasks as well as young adults, also seem to implement speed-accuracy trade-off strategies which may rely on increased parietal activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)881-889
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Aging
  • Executive cognitive function
  • Functional MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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