Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Aging and Dementia: Detection of Age-Related Cognitive Changes and Prediction of Cognitive Decline

  • John L. WoodardEmail author
  • Michael A. Sugarman
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 10)


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows for dynamic observation of the neural substrates of cognitive processing, which makes it a valuable tool for studying brain changes that may occur with both normal and pathological aging. fMRI studies have revealed that older adults frequently exhibit a greater magnitude and extent activation of the blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal compared to younger adults. This additional activation may reflect compensatory recruitment associated with functional and structural deterioration of neural resources. Increased activation has also been associated with several risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), including the apolipoprotein ε4 allele. Longitudinal studies have also demonstrated that fMRI may have predictive utility in determining which individuals are at the greatest risk of developing cognitive decline. This chapter will review the results of a number of task-activated fMRI studies of older adults, focusing on both healthy aging and neuropathology associated with AD. We also discuss models that account for cognitive aging processes, including the hemispheric asymmetry reduction in older adults (HAROLD) and scaffolding theory of aging and cognition (STAC) models. Finally, we discuss methodological issues commonly associated with fMRI research in older adults.


fMRI Aging Cognitive decline Alzheimer’s disease 



This work was supported in part by NIH grant R01 AG022304. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Aging or the National Institutes of Health.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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