3 years ago

Age-related changes in brain deactivation but not in activation after motor learning

K.m.m. Berghuis, S. Fagioli, N.m. Maurits, I. Zijdewind, J.b.c. Marsman, T. Hortobágyi, G. Koch, M. Bozzali

Publication date: Available online 12 November 2018

Source: NeuroImage

Author(s): K.M.M. Berghuis, S. Fagioli, N.M. Maurits, I. Zijdewind, J.B.C. Marsman, T. Hortobágyi, G. Koch, M. Bozzali


It is poorly understood how healthy aging affects neural mechanisms underlying motor learning. We used blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) contrasts to examine age-related changes in brain activation after acquisition and consolidation (24 h) of a visuomotor tracking skill. Additionally, structural magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging were used to examine age-related structural changes in the brain. Older adults had reduced gray matter volume (628 ± 57 ml) and mean white matter anisotropy (0.18 ± 0.03) compared with young adults (741 ± 59 ml and 0.22 ± 0.02, respectively). Although motor performance was 53% lower in older (n = 15, mean age 63.1 years) compared with young adults (n = 15, mean age 25.5 years), motor practice improved motor performance similarly in both age groups. While executing the task, older adults showed in general greater and more widespread activation compared with young adults. BOLD activation decreased in parietal and occipital areas after skill acquisition but activation increased in these areas after consolidation in both age groups, indicating more efficient visuospatial processing immediately after skill acquisition. Changes in deactivation in specific areas were age-dependent after consolidating the motor skill into motor memory. Young adults showed greater deactivations from post-test to retention in parietal, occipital and temporal cortices whereas older adults showed smaller deactivation in the frontal cortex. Since learning rate was similar between age groups, age-related changes in activation patterns may be interpreted as a compensatory mechanism for age-related structural decline.

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