We comparedthe characteristics of the visually evoked hemodynamic response (HDR) in groups of young and elderly adults. Checkerboard stimuli were presented for 500 ms either singly or in pairs separated by a 2-s intrapair interval while gradient-echo echoplanar fMRI images were acquired concurrently every 1 s. Activated voxels, identified by correlation with an empirically derived reference waveform, were found for both groups in cortex along the calcarine sulcus and in the fusiform gyrus, with the mean HDR latency in calcarine cortex peaking approximately 300 ms earlier than the HDR evoked in the fusiform gyrus. On average, younger subjects had twice as many activated voxels as older subjects. The mean HDR had a similar onset time, rate of rise, and peak amplitude in both groups. However, the HDRs of older subjects reached their peak earlier and were more variable across subjects. Despite having average HDR amplitudes similar to those of younger subjects, older subjects had higher noise levels in activated voxels, resulting in lower signal-to-noise ratios. Distribution analyses of voxel statistics (t value, peak amplitude, peak latency) revealed that older subjects had proportionally fewer small-effect-size voxels, due to their increased voxelwise noise. This finding was consistent with the smaller spatial extent of activation in older subjects. To investigate age differences in the refractory period of the visual HDR, the HDR evoked by the second stimulus of each pair was isolated by subtracting the HDR evoked by a single stimulus from the composite HDR evoked by a pair. Recovery measures were similar across the age groups.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.