Aging: Compensation or maturation?

Cheryl J. Aine, Chad C. Woodruff, Janice E. Knoefel, John C. Adair, David Hudson, Clifford Qualls, Jeremy Bockholt, Elaine Best, Sanja Kovacevic, Wayne Cobb, Denise Padilla, Blaine Hart, Julia M. Stephen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging studies of healthy aging often reveal differences in neural activation patterns between young and elderly groups for episodic memory tasks, even though there are no differences in behavioral performance. One explanation typically offered is that the elderly compensate for their memory deficiencies through the recruitment of additional prefrontal regions. The present study of healthy aging compared magnetoencephalographic (MEG) timecourses localized to specific cortical regions in two groups of subjects (20-29 years and ≥65 years) during a visual delayed-match-to-sample (DMS) task. MR morphometrics and neuropsychological test results were also examined with the hope of providing insight into the nature of the age-related differences. The behavioral results indicated no differences in performance between young and elderly groups. Although there was a main effect of age on the latency of the initial peak in primary/secondary visual cortex, these longer latencies were not correlated with the performance of elderly on the DMS task. The lateral occipital gyrus (LOG) revealed qualitatively different patterns of activity for the two age groups corroborated by neuropsychological test results. Morphometric results for the young versus elderly groups revealed less white (WM) and gray matter (GM) volumes in the frontal lobes of the elderly. When a group of middle-aged subjects (33-43 years) was included in the morphometric analyses, the middle-aged subjects revealed statistically greater WM volumes in frontal and parietal cortex suggesting immature WM tracts in the young. Perhaps our elderly utilized a different strategy compared to the young due to the different brain maturation levels of these groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1891-1904
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2006


  • Aging
  • Brain mapping
  • Delayed-match-to-sample
  • Gray and white matter volumes
  • MEG
  • Morphometrics
  • Recognition memory
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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