Healthy aging is accompanied by structural and functional changes in the brain, among which a loss of neural specificity (i.e., dedifferentiation) is one of the most consistent findings. Little is known, however, about changes in interregional integration underlying a dedifferentiation across different functional systems. In a large sample (n = 399) of healthy adults aged from 18 to 85 years, we analyzed age-dependent differences in resting-state (RS) (task-independent) functional connectivity (FC) of a set of brain regions derived from a previous fMRI study. In that study, these regions had shown an age-related loss of activation specificity in visual-attention (superior parietal area 7A and dorsal premotor cortex) or sensorimotor (area OP4 of the parietal operculum) tasks. In addition to these dedifferentiated regions, the FC analysis of the present study included "task-general" regions associated with both attention and sensorimotor systems (rostral supplementary motor area and bilateral anterior insula) as defined via meta-analytical co-activation mapping. Within this network, we observed both selective increases and decreases in RS-FC with age. In line with regional activation changes reported previously, we found diminished anti-correlated FC for inter-system connections (i.e., between sensorimotor-related and visual attention-related regions). Our analysis also revealed reduced FC between system-specific and task-general regions, which might reflect age-related deficits in top-down control possibly leading to dedifferentiation of task-specific brain activity. Together, our results underpin the notion that RS-FC changes concur with regional activity changes in the healthy aging brain, presumably contributing jointly to age-related behavioral changes.
Keywords: MACM; aging; fMRI; functional connectivity; functional systems; resting state.