Evidence for reduced efficiency and successful compensation in older adults during task switching

Jonathan G. Hakun, Zude Zhu, Nathan F. Johnson, Brian T. Gold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Older adults often show different functional activation patterns than younger adults in prefrontal cortex (PFC) when performing cognitive control tasks. These differences include age-related increases in PFC activation magnitude and reorganized PFC functional connectivity (fC) patterns. However, it remains unclear whether age-related alterations in brain activation patterns reflect a positive mechanism (e.g., compensatory response) or a sign of brain dysfunction (e.g., reduced efficiency). Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare PFC activation magnitudes and PFC connectivity patterns between younger and older adult groups during performance of a task switching paradigm. Results indicated age-related increases both in PFC activation magnitudes and in PFC fC with inferotemporal (IT) regions. However, these age-related fMRI increases were differentially associated with task performance. Whereas increased PFC activation magnitudes tended to be either unrelated to task RT or associated with poorer task performance, increased PFC-IT connectivity was associated with better task performance in older adults. Our results suggest that age-related reductions in efficiency and successful compensation can co-exist in older adults in the context of the same task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-362
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01AG033036 . The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of these granting agencies. We thank Sara Cilles and Chobok Kim for their assistance in recruiting and testing participants. In addition, we wish to thank our study volunteers for their participation in this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Aging
  • Compensation
  • Efficiency
  • FMRI
  • GPPI
  • Task-related functional connectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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