Age-Related Reorganization of Functional Networks for Successful Conflict Resolution: a Combined Functional and Structural MRI Study


Schulte T, Müller-Oehring EM, Chanraud S, Rosenbloom MJ, Pfefferbaum A, Sullivan EV. Age-related reorganization of functional networks for successful conflict resolution: a combined functional and structural MRI study. Neurobiol Aging. 2011 Nov;32(11):2075-90. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2009.12.002. Epub 2009 Dec 22. PMID: 20022675; PMCID: PMC2888896.


Aging has readily observable effects on the ability to resolve conflict between competing stimulus attributes that are likely related to selective structural and functional brain changes. To identify age-related differences in neural circuits subserving conflict processing, we combined structural and functional MRI and a Stroop Match-to-Sample task involving perceptual cueing and repetition to modulate resources in healthy young and older adults. In our Stroop Match-to-Sample task, older adults handled conflict by activating a frontoparietal attention system more than young adults and engaged a visuomotor network more than young adults when processing repetitive conflict and when processing conflict following valid perceptual cueing. By contrast, young adults activated frontal regions more than older adults when processing conflict with perceptual cueing. These differential activation patterns were not correlated with regional gray matter volume despite smaller volumes in older than young adults. Given comparable performance in speed and accuracy of responding between both groups, these data suggest that successful aging is associated with functional reorganization of neural systems to accommodate functionally increasing task demands on perceptual and attentional operations.

Keywords: Conflict, Stroop, Perceptual Cueing, Functional Reorganization, structural MRI, functional MRI

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