A consistent finding from functional neuroimaging studies of cognitive aging is an age-related reduction in occipital activity coupled with increased frontal activity. This posterior-anterior shift in aging (PASA) has been typically attributed to functional compensation. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging sought to 1) confirm that PASA reflects the effects of aging rather than differences in task difficulty; 2) test the compensation hypothesis; and 3) investigate whether PASA generalizes to deactivations. Young and older participants were scanned during episodic retrieval and visual perceptual tasks, and age-related changes in brain activity common to both tasks were identified. The study yielded 3 main findings. First, inconsistent with a difficulty account, the PASA pattern was found across task and confidence levels when matching performance among groups. Second, supporting the compensatory hypothesis, age-related increases in frontal activity were positively correlated with performance and negatively correlated with the age-related occipital decreases. Age-related increases and correlations with parietal activity were also found. Finally, supporting the generalizability of the PASA pattern to deactivations, aging reduced deactivations in posterior midline cortex but increased deactivations in medial frontal cortex. Taken together, these findings demonstrate the validity, function, and generalizability of PASA, as well as its importance for the cognitive neuroscience of aging.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience