Journal of Neuroscience vol:25 issue:29 pages:6787-96
Although functional imaging studies have frequently examined age-related changes in neural recruitment during cognitive tasks, much less is known about such changes during motor performance. In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate age-related changes in cyclical hand and/or foot movements across different degrees of complexity. Right-handed volunteers (11 young, 10 old) were scanned while performing isolated flexion-extension movements of the right wrist and foot as well as their coordination, according to the "easy" isodirectional and "difficult" nonisodirectional mode. Findings revealed activation of a typical motor network in both age groups, but several additional brain areas were involved in the elderly. Regardless of the performed motor task, the elderly exhibited additional activation in areas involved in sensory processing and integration, such as contralateral anterior insula, frontal operculum, superior temporal gyrus, supramarginal gyrus, secondary somatosensory area, and ipsilateral precuneus. Age-related activation differences during coordination of both segments were additionally observed in areas reflecting increased cognitive monitoring of motor performance, such as the pre-supplementary motor area, pre-dorsal premotor area, rostral cingulate, and prefrontal cortex. In the most complex coordination task, the elderly exhibited additional activation in anterior rostral cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, known to be involved in suppression of prepotent response tendencies and inhibitory cognitive control. Overall, these findings are indicative of an age-related shift along the continuum from automatic to more controlled processing of movement. This increased cognitive monitoring of movement refers to enhanced attentional deployment, more pronounced processing of sensory information, and intersensory integration.