Study examines how brain structure and brain function impact aging

Nicole Evangelista and Dr. Adam Woods.

By Todd Taylor

Cognition has been shown to decline in advancing age, even in the absence of disease. This can lead to less working memory, which has been associated with decreased independence in older age.

A new study led by UF neuroscientists Adam J. Woods, Ph.D. and Nicole Evangelista, examining how brain structure and brain function may together contribute to cognition, found that greater right and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activation — a measure of brain function — predicted higher working memory performance in older adults, as did a greater DLPFC surface area structure in the left hemisphere of the brain.

“Our results suggest that these measures of structure and function independently predict higher working memory performance and provide us with a better understanding of how the brain interacts to produce working memory,” said Woods, associate professor of clinical and health psychology in UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions.

The study, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, examined 133 healthy older adults who underwent an MRI and performed a working memory task during their scan.

“These findings may help inform future intervention strategies to stave off working memory declines in aging, as well as potential preventative strategies for altering the trajectory towards Alzheimer’s disease,” said Woods, associate director of UF’s Center for Cognitive Aging and Memory.

Read the paper in Cerebral Cortex.