Age-Related Shifts in Brain Activity Dynamics during Task Switching

Koji Jimura, Todd S. Braver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Cognitive aging studies have suggested that older adults show declines in both sustained and transient cognitive control processes. However, previous neuroimaging studies have primarily focused on age-related change in the magnitude, but not temporal dynamics, of brain activity. The present study compared brain activity dynamics in healthy old and young adults during task switching. A mixed blocked/event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging design enabled separation of transient and sustained neural activity associated with cognitive control. Relative to young adults, older adults exhibited not only decreased sustained activity in the anterior prefrontal cortex (aPFC) during task-switching blocks but also increased transient activity on task-switch trials. Another pattern of age-related shift in dynamics was present in the lateral PFC (lPFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC), with younger adults showing a cue-related response during task-switch trials in lPFC and PPC, whereas older adults exhibited switch-related activation during the cue period in PPC only. In all 3 regions, these qualitatively distinct patterns of brain activity predicted qualitatively distinct patterns of behavioral performance across the 2 age groups. Together, these results suggest that older adults may shift from a proactive to reactive cognitive control strategy as a means of retaining relatively preserved behavioral performance in the face of age-related neurocognitive changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1420-1431
Number of pages12
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010


  • Cognitive control
  • Mixed blocked/event-related fMRI
  • Parietal cortex
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Task set


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