Aging and the brain

A reader has just drawn my attention to the 2011 article below.  It suggests that while certain brain capacities wane as we get older, we compemsate by using more of the brain's resources -- explaining why high level intellectual activity is often found among the elderly.  I am in my 80th year so I find that encouraging.  

My impression of my own writing is that I marshall arguments as well as ever.  I was rather pleased that I was able to show the hole in an argument by a prominent Leftist economist recently

Changes in Regional and Temporal Patterns of Activity Associated with Aging during the Performance of a Lexical Set-Shifting Task

Authors:  Ruben Martins et al.


Some older individuals seem to use compensatory mechanisms to maintain high-level performance when submitted to cognitive tasks. However, whether and how these mechanisms affect fronto-striatal activity has never been explored. The purpose of this study was to investigate how aging affects brain patterns during the performance of a lexical analog of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, which has been shown to strongly depend on fronto-striatal activity. In the present study, both younger and older individuals revealed significant fronto-striatal loop activity associated with planning and execution of set-shifts, though age-related striatal activity reduction was observed. Most importantly, while the younger group showed the involvement of a "cognitive loop" during the receiving negative feedback period (which indicates that a set-shift will be required to perform the following trial) and the involvement of a "motor loop" during the matching after negative feedback period (when the set-shift must be performed), older participants showed significant activation of both loops during the matching after negative feedback period only. These findings are in agreement with the "load-shift" model postulated by Velanova et al. (Velanova K, Lustig C, Jacoby LL, Buckner RL. 2007. Evidence for frontally mediated controlled processing differences in older adults. Cereb Cortex. 17:1033-1046.) and indicate that the model is not limited to memory retrieval but also applies to executive processes relying on fronto-striatal regions.


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