Neural differentiation is moderated by age in scene- but not face-selective cortical regions

Sabina Srokova, Paul F. Hill, Joshua D. Koen, Danielle R. King, Michael D. Rugg

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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The aging brain is characterized by neural dedifferentiation, an apparent decrease in the functional selectivity of category-selective cortical regions. Age-related reductions in neural differentiation have been proposed to play a causal role in cognitive aging. Recent findings suggest, however, that age-related dedifferentiation is not equally evident for all stimulus categories and, additionally, that the relationship between neural differentiation and cognitive performance is not moderated by age. In light of these findings, in the present experiment, younger and older human adults (males and females) underwent fMRI as they studied words paired with images of scenes or faces before a subsequent memory task. Neural selectivity was measured in two scene-selective (parahippocampal place area (PPA) and retrosplenial cortex (RSC)] and two face-selective [fusiform face area (FFA) and occipital face area (OFA)] regions using both a univariate differentiation index and multivoxel pattern similarity analysis. Both methods provided highly convergent results, which revealed evidence of age-related reductions in neural dedifferentiation in scene-selective but not face-selective cortical regions. Additionally, neural differentiation in the PPA demonstrated a positive, age-invariant relationship with subsequent source memory performance (recall of the image category paired with each recognized test word). These findings extend prior findings suggesting that age-related neural dedifferentiation is not a ubiquitous phenomenon, and that the specificity of neural responses to scenes is predictive of subsequent memory performance independently of age.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberENEURO.0142-20.2020
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2020


  • cognitive aging
  • neural differentiation
  • pattern similarity

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