The maintenance of a high level of performance in aging has often been associated with changes in cerebral activations patterns for various cognitive components. However, relatively few studies have investigated this phenomenon in light of lexical speech production abilities, which have not been systematically found to benefit from neurofunctional reorganization during verbal fluency tasks. In this study, functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess overt self-paced semantic and orthographic verbal fluency tasks performed by healthy younger and older adults within a mixed block/event-related fMRI design. Behavioral results indicated similarly high levels of performance between tasks and age groups, while whole brain analysis revealed significant task-related differences in patterns of brain activity, but no significant effect of age or task-by-age interaction across the speech conditions. Only local activity differences were found between age groups. These marginal neurofunctional changes in high-performing older adults are discussed in terms of task demands.
Keywords: Aging; Communication abilities; Neurofunctional reorganization; Verbal fluency; fMRI.
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