General and task-specific frontal lobe recruitment in older adults during executive processes: a fMRI investigation of task-switching

Neuroreport. 2001 Jul 3;12(9):2065-71. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200107030-00054.


Performance deteriorates when subjects must shift between two different tasks relative to performing either task separately. This switching cost is thought to result from executive processes that are not inherent to the component operations of either task when performed alone. Medial and dorsolateral frontal cortices are theorized to subserve these executive processes. Here we show that larger areas of activation were seen in dorsolateral and medial frontal cortex in both younger and older adults during switching than repeating conditions, confirming the role of these frontal brain regions in executive processes. Younger subjects activated these medial and dorsolateral frontal cortices only when switching between tasks; in contrast, older subjects recruited similar frontal regions while performing the tasks in isolation as well as alternating between them. Older adults recruit medial and dorsolateral frontal areas, and the processes computed by these areas, even when no such demands are intrinsic to the current task conditions. This neural recruitment may be useful in offsetting the declines in cognitive function associated with ageing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology