New Visions of the Aging Mind and Brain

Trends Cogn Sci. 2002 Sep 1;6(9):394. doi: 10.1016/s1364-6613(02)01957-5.


Cognitive aging is widely viewed as a process of progressive mental loss. Compelling new evidence from functional neuroimaging urges a reconsideration of this pessimistic view. In the domains of working memory and episodic memory, older adults recruit different brain regions from those recruited by younger adults when performing the same tasks. Specifically, older adults show prominent changes in the recruitment of prefrontal regions, and a conspicuous increase in the extent to which activation patterns are bilateral. These results are stimulating new hypotheses about the mechanisms underlying age-related cognitive declines and the potential for compensation. By suggesting a life-long potential for reorganization and plasticity, these discoveries might revise long-held views of functional localization.