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Frontoparietal function and underlying structure reflect capacity for motor skill acquisition during healthy aging.

Neurobiology of Aging 2023 October 21
While capacity for motor skill acquisition changes with healthy aging, there has been little consideration of how age-related changes in brain function or baseline brain structure support motor skill acquisition. We examined: (1) age-dependent changes in functional reorganization related to frontoparietal regions during motor skill acquisition, and (2) whether capacity for motor skill acquisition relates to baseline white matter microstructure in frontoparietal tracts. Healthy older and younger adults engaged in 4 weeks of skilled motor practice. Resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) assessed functional reorganization before and after practice. Diffusion tensor imaging indexed microstructure of a frontoparietal tract at baseline, generated by rsFC seeds. Motor skill acquisition was associated with decreases in rsFC in healthy older adults and increases in rsFC in healthy younger adults. Frontoparietal tract microstructure was lower in healthy older versus younger adults, yet it was negatively associated with rate of skill acquisition regardless of group. Findings indicate that age-dependent alterations in frontoparietal function and baseline structure of a frontoparietal tract reflect capacity for motor skill acquisition.

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