Practice-induced functional plasticity in inhibitory control interacts with aging

Lea Hartmann, Laura Wachtl, Marzia de Lucia, Lucas Spierer
Brain and Cognition 2019 February 22, 132: 22-32
Inhibitory control deficits represent a key aspect of the cognitive declines associated with aging. Practicing inhibitory control has thus been advanced as a potential approach to compensate for age-induced neurocognitive impairments. Yet, the functional brain changes associated with practicing inhibitory control tasks in older adults and whether they differ from those observed in young populations remains unresolved. We compared electrical neuroimaging analyses of ERPs recorded during a Go/NoGo practice session with a Group (Young; Older adults) by Session (Beginning; End of the practice) design to identify whether the practice of an inhibition task in older adults reinforces already implemented compensatory activity or reduce it by enhancing the functioning of the brain networks primarily involved in the tasks. We observed an equivalent small effect of practice on performance in the two age-groups. The topographic ERP analyses and source estimations revealed qualitatively different effects of the practice over the N2 and P3 ERP components, respectively driven by a decrease in supplementary motor area activity and an increase in left ventrolateral prefrontal activity in the older but not in the young adults with practice. Our results thus indicate that inhibition task practice in older adults increases age-related divergences in the underlying functional processes.

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