A multivariate analysis of age-related differences in functional networks supporting conflict resolution

Neuroimage. 2014 Feb 1;86:150-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 9.


Functional neuroimaging studies demonstrate age-related differences in recruitment of a large-scale attentional network during interference resolution, especially within dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). These alterations in functional responses have been frequently observed despite equivalent task performance, suggesting age-related reallocation of neural resources, although direct evidence for a facilitating effect in aging is sparse. We used the multi-source interference task and multivariate partial-least-squares to investigate age-related differences in the neuronal signature of conflict resolution, and their behavioral implications in younger and older adults. There were interference-related increases in activity, involving fronto-parietal and basal ganglia networks that generalized across age. In addition an age-by-task interaction was observed within a distributed network, including DLPFC and ACC, with greater activity during interference in the old. Next, we combined brain-behavior and functional connectivity analyses to investigate whether compensatory brain changes were present in older adults, using DLPFC and ACC as regions of interest (i.e. seed regions). This analysis revealed two networks differentially related to performance across age groups. A structural analysis revealed age-related gray-matter losses in regions facilitating performance in the young, suggesting that functional reorganization may partly reflect structural alterations in aging. Collectively, these findings suggest that age-related structural changes contribute to reductions in the efficient recruitment of a youth-like interference network, which cascades into instantiation of a different network facilitating conflict resolution in elderly people.

Keywords: Aging; Functional connectivity; Interference resolution; MSIT; PLS; Reorganization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Young Adult