Reference ability neural networks and behavioral performance across the adult life span
To better understand the impact of aging, along with other demographic and brain health variables, on the neural networks that support different aspects of cognitive performance, we applied a brute-force search technique based on Principal Components Analysis to derive 4 corresponding spatial covariance patterns (termed Reference Ability Neural Networks –RANNs) from a large sample of participants across the age range. 255 clinically healthy, community-dwelling adults, aged 20–77, underwent fMRI while performing 12 tasks, 3 tasks for each of the following cognitive reference abilities: Episodic Memory, Reasoning, Perceptual Speed, and Vocabulary. The derived RANNs (1) showed selective activation to their specific cognitive domain and (2) correlated with behavioral performance. Quasi out-of-sample replication with Monte-Carlo 5-fold cross validation was built into our approach, and all patterns indicated their corresponding reference ability and predicted performance in held-out data to a degree significantly greater than chance level. RANN-pattern expression for Episodic Memory, Reasoning and Vocabulary were associated selectively with age, while the pattern for Perceptual Speed showed no such age-related influences. For each participant we also looked at residual activity unaccounted for by the RANN-pattern derived for the cognitive reference ability. Higher residual activity was associated with poorer brain-structural health and older age, but –apart from Vocabulary-not with cognitive performance, indicating that older participants with worse brain-structural health might recruit alternative neural resources to maintain performance levels.
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- June 15, 2021