Reduced basal ganglia function when elderly switch between coordinated movement patterns

James Peter Coxon, Daniel J Goble, Annouchka Van Impe, Jeroen De Vos, Nicole Wenderoth, Stephan P Swinnen

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64 Citations (Scopus)


Structural and neurochemical changes in frontostriatal circuits are thought to underlie age-related behavioral deficits on cognitive tasks. Here, we test the hypothesis that age-related motor switching deficits are associated with reduced basal ganglia (BG) function. Right-handed volunteers (15 Old, and 15 Young) made spatially and temporally coupled bimanual circular motions during event-related FMRI. A visual cue signaled the right hand to Switch or Continue its circling direction. Switching from mirror symmetric to asymmetric (SWASYMM) took longer and resulted in more contralateral (left-) hand disruptions than vice versa. These effects were more pronounced in the elderly, showing that the ability to suppress and flexibly adapt motor behavior (agility) declines with age. For both groups, switching activated the BG and a typical network for task-set implementation, including dorsal anterior cingulate cortex/supplementary motor area (pre-SMA, SMA-proper) and anterior insula/inferior frontal gyrus. A region of interest analysis revealed significantly reduced SWASYMM activation in bilateral subthalamic nucleus and right globus pallidus, only in the elderly. Age-related behavioral deficits may be related to inefficient recruitment of cortico-BG loops to suppress undesired movements. The elderly may use an alternative strategy to select the required movement pattern as indicated by increased activation of prefrontal cortex
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2368 - 2379
Number of pages12
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

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