Age differences in prefrontal cortical activity in working memory

Psychol Aging. 2001 Sep;16(3):371-84. doi: 10.1037//0882-7974.16.3.371.


Working memory (WM) declines with advancing age. Brain imaging studies indicate that ventral prefrontal cortex (PFC) is active when information is retained in WM and that dorsal PFC is further activated for retention of large amounts of information. The authors examined the effect of aging on activation in specific PFC regions during WM performance. Six younger and 6 older adults performed a task in which, on each trial, they (a) encoded a 1- or 6-letter memory set, (b) maintained these letters over 5-s. and (c) determined whether or not a probe letter was part of the memory set. Comparisons of activation between the 1- and 6-letter conditions indicated age-equivalent ventral PFC activation. Younger adults showed greater dorsal PFC activation than older adults. Older adults showed greater rostral PFC activation than younger adults. Aging may affect dorsal PFC brain regions that are important for WM executive components.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*