Frontoparietal structural properties mediate adult life span differences in executive function

Sci Rep. 2020 Jun 3;10(1):9066. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-66083-w.

Abstract

Executive function (EF) refers to a set of cognitive functions that support goal-directed behaviors. Recent findings have suggested that the frontoparietal network (FPN) subserves neural processes that are related to EF. However, the FPN structural and functional network properties that mediate age-related differences in EF components remain unclear. To this end, we used three experimental tasks to test the component processes of EF based on Miyake and Friedman's model: one common EF component process (incorporating inhibition, shifting, and updating) and two specific EF component processes (shifting and updating). We recruited 126 healthy participants (65 females; 20 to 78 years old) who underwent both structural and functional MRI scanning. We tested a mediation path model of three structural and functional properties of the FPN (i.e., gray matter volume, white matter fractional anisotropy, and intra/internetwork functional connectivity) as mediators of age-related differences in the three EF components. The results indicated that age-related common EF component differences are mediated by regional gray matter volume changes in both hemispheres of the frontal lobe, which suggests that structural changes in the frontal lobe may have an indirect influence on age-related general elements of EF. These findings suggest that the FPN mediates age-related differences in specific components of EF.