Reduced neural selectivity increases fMRI adaptation with age during face discrimination

Neuroimage. 2010 May 15;51(1):336-44. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.01.107. Epub 2010 Feb 6.


Ventral-visual activity in older adults has been characterized by dedifferentiation, or reduced distinctiveness, of responses to different categories of visual stimuli such as faces and houses, that typically elicit highly specialized responses in the fusiform and parahippocampal brain regions respectively in young adults (Park et al., 2004). In the present study, we demonstrate that age-related neural dedifferentiation applies to within-category stimuli (different types of faces) as well, such that older adults process less distinctive representations for individual faces than young adults. We performed a functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation experiment while young and older participants made same-different judgments to serially presented face-pairs that were Identical, Moderate in similarity through morphing, or Different. As expected, older adults showed adaptation in the fusiform face area (FFA), during the Identical as well as the Moderate conditions relative to the Different condition. Young adults showed adaptation during the Identical condition, but minimal adaptation to the Moderate condition. These results indicate that older adults' FFA treated the morphed faces as Identical faces, reflecting decreased fidelity of neural representation of faces with age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult