We investigated the neural representation of swallowing in two age groups for a total of 51 healthy participants (seniors: average age 64 years; young adults: average age 24 years) using high spatial resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Two statistical comparisons (classical and Bayesian inference) revealed no significant differences between subject groups, apart from higher cortical activation for the seniors in the frontal pole 1 of Brodmann's Area 10 using Bayesian inference. Seniors vs. young participants showed longer reaction times and higher skin conductance response (SCR) during swallowing. We found a positive association of SCR and fMRI-activation only among seniors in areas processing sensorimotor performance, arousal and emotional perception. The results indicate that the highly automated swallowing network retains its functionality with age. However, seniors with higher SCR during swallowing appear to also engage areas involved in attention control and emotional regulation, possibly suggesting increased attention and emotional demands during task performance.
Keywords: Age; BA 10; Bayes; SCR; Swallowing; fMRI.
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