The same, but different: preserved distractor suppression in old age is implemented through an age-specific reactive ventral fronto-parietal network

Brandon Ashinoff, Stephen Mayhew, Carmel Mevorach

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Previous studies have shown age-related impairments in the ability to suppress
salient distractors. One possibility is that this is mediated by age-related impairments in the recruitment of the left intraparietal sulcus (Left IPS), which has been shown to mediate the suppression of salient distractors in healthy, young participants. Alternatively, this effect may be due to a shift in engagement from proactive control to reactive control, possibly to compensate for age-related impairments in proactive control. Another possibility is that this is due to changes in the functional specificity of brain regions that mediate salience suppression, expressed in changes in spontaneous connectivity of these regions. We assessed these possibilities by having participants engage in a proactive distractor suppression task while in an fMRI scanner. Although we did not find any age-related differences in behavior, the young (N = 15) and older (N = 15) cohorts engaged qualitatively distinctive brain networks to complete the task. Younger participants engaged the predicted proactive control network, including
the Left IPS. On the other hand, older participants simultaneously engaged both a
proactive and a reactive network, but this was not a consequence of reduced network specificity as resting state functional connectivity was largely comparable in both age groups. Furthermore, improved behavioral performance for older adults was associated with increased resting state functional connectivity between these two networks. Overall, the results of this study suggest that age-related differences in the recruitment of a left lateralized ventral fronto-parietal network likely reflect the specific recruitment of reactive control mechanisms for distractor inhibition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3938-3955
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number14
Early online date23 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Human Brain Mapping published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • Cognitive control
  • Distractor Suppression
  • Fronto-parietal network
  • Healthy Aging
  • Proactive inhibition
  • Reactive Inhibition
  • Resting state functional connectivity
  • resting state functional connectivity
  • distractor suppression
  • cognitive control
  • fronto-parietal network
  • reactive inhibition
  • healthy aging
  • proactive inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Anatomy


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