Age-related deficits in generation and manipulation of mental images: II. The role of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

Psychol Aging. 1999 Sep;14(3):436-444. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.14.3.436.


The authors investigated neural substrates of age-related declines in mental imagery. Healthy adult participants (ages 19 to 77) performed a series of visual-spatial mental imagery tasks that varied in apparent difficulty and involved stimuli of varying graphic complexity. The volumes of the dorsolateral frontal cortex (DLPFC) and posterior visual processing areas were estimated from magnetic resonance imaging scans. The volume of the DLPFC and the fusiform cortex, working-memory capacity, and performance on the tasks involving image generation and manipulation were significantly reduced with age. Further analyses suggested that age-related deficits in performance on mental imagery tasks may stem in part from age-related shrinkage of the prefrontal cortex and age-related declines in working memory but not from age-related slowing of sensorimotor reaction time. The volume of cortical regions associated with modality-specific visual information processing did not show a consistent relationship with specific mental imagery processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*