Cognitive neuroscience of aging: contributions of functional neuroimaging.
By revealing how brain activity during cognitive performance changes as a function of aging, studies using positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are contributing to the development of a new discipline of Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging. This article reviews functional neuroimaging studies of cognitive aging in the domains of visual perception, episodic memory encoding and semantic memory retrieval, episodic memory retrieval, implicit memory, and working memory. The most consistent finding of these studies was that brain activity tends to be less lateralized in older adults than in younger adults. This finding is conceptualized in terms of a model called Hemispheric Asymmetry Reduction in Old Adults (HAROLD). According to a compensation hypothesis, bihemispheric involvement could help counteract age-related neurocognitive decline, whereas, according to a dedifferentiation hypothesis, it reflects a difficulty in recruiting specialized neural mechanisms.
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