Neural processing of arousing emotional information is associated with executive functioning in older adults

Emotion. 2020 Jun;20(4):541-556. doi: 10.1037/emo0000560. Epub 2019 Apr 4.


Evidence suggests that reduced bottom-up processing due to aging-related brain deterioration needs to be considered when trying to understand how cognitive resources and processing arousing emotional information are associated in old age. Moreover, cognitive resources have been shown to decrease in older adults while high interindividual variability in cognitive functioning at higher ages is one of the hallmarks of cognitive aging research. It has been suggested that individual variations of biological aging trajectories contribute to described large interindividual differences in old age. Using fMRI, we investigated the relationship between executive functioning and bottom-up processing of arousing emotional information in 77 older participants (57 female) between 62 and 79 years (M = 68.7 years., SD = 3.7 years.). As expected, in older adults with low levels of executive functioning, for both negative and positive emotional stimuli we found reduced arousal-modulated BOLD signals in different brain areas, including bilateral premotor area (BA 6), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal lobule, and left putamen, as well as reduced functional connectivity of amygdala and visual cortex with various other brain regions. Our results further indicate, that processing of negative and positive valence items might be affected in different ways. We conclude that attenuated bottom-up processing of arousing information in older adults with low levels of executive functioning might be the result of impaired pathways rather than of an impaired specific structure like the amygdala. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Emotions
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male