Age is known to affect prefrontal brain structure and executive functioning in healthy older adults, patients with neurodegenerative conditions and TBI. Yet, no studies appear to have systematically investigated the effect of age on cognitive performance in patients with focal lesions. We investigated the effect of age on the cognitive performance of a large sample of tumour and stroke patients with focal unilateral, frontal (n=68), or non-frontal lesions (n=45) and healthy controls (n=52). We retrospectively reviewed their cross sectional cognitive and imaging data. In our frontal patients, age significantly predicted the magnitude of their impairment on two executive tests (Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices, RAPM and the Stroop test) but not on nominal (Graded Naming Test, GNT) or perceptual (Incomplete Letters) task. In our non-frontal patients, age did not predict the magnitude of their impairment on the RAPM and GNT. Furthermore, the exacerbated executive impairment observed in our frontal patients manifested itself from middle age. We found that only age consistently predicted the exacerbated executive impairment. Lesions to specific frontal areas, or an increase in global brain atrophy or white matter abnormalities were not associated with this impairment. Our results are in line with the notion that the frontal cortex plays a critical role in aging to counteract cognitive and neuronal decline. We suggest that the combined effect of aging and frontal lesions impairs the frontal cortical systems by causing its computational power to fall below the threshold needed to complete executive tasks successfully.
Keywords: Aging; Cognitive performance; Executive functions; Frontal lesions non-frontal lesions.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.