W.P.M. van den Wildenberg
- Impact of aging on frontostriatal reward processing
- Human Brain Mapping
- Volume | Issue number
- 36 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Healthy aging is associated with a progressive decline across a range of cognitive functions. An important factor underlying this decline may be the age-related impairment in stimulus-reward processing. Several studies have investigated age-related effects, but compared young versus old subjects. This is the first study to investigate the effect of aging on brain activation during reward processing within a continuous segment of the adult life span. We scanned 49 healthy adults aged 40-70 years, using functional MRI. We adopted a simple reward task, which allowed separate evaluation of neural responses to reward anticipation and receipt. The effect of reward on performance accuracy and speed was not related to age, indicating that all subjects could perform the task correctly. We identified a whole-brain significant age-related decline of ventral striatum activation during reward anticipation as compared to neutral anticipation. Importantly, the specificity of this finding was underscored by the observation that there was no general decline in activation during anticipation. Activation in the ventral striatum increased with age during reward receipt as compared to receiving neutral outcome. Finally, activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex during outcome was not affected by age. Our data demonstrate that the typical shift in striatal activation from reward receipt to reward anticipation in young adults disappears with healthy aging. These changes are consistent the well-ocumented age-related decline of striatal dopamine availability, and may provide a stepping stone for further research of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
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