Age-related differences in the involvement of the prefrontal cortex in attentional control

Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, Kirk I. Erickson, Stanley J. Colcombe, Jennifer S. Kim, Michelle W. Voss, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the relative involvement of cortical regions supporting attentional control in older and younger adults during performance on a modified version of the Stroop task. Participants were exposed to two different types of incongruent trials. One of these, an incongruent-ineligible condition, produces conflict at the non-response level, while the second, an incongruent-eligible condition, produces conflict at both non-response and response levels of information processing. Greater attentional control is needed to perform the incongruent-eligible condition compared to other conditions. We examined the cortical recruitment associated with this task in an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm in 25 older and 25 younger adults. Our results indicated that while younger adults demonstrated an increase in the activation of cortical regions responsible for maintaining attentional control in response to increased levels of conflict, such sensitivity and flexibility of the cortical regions to increased attentional control demands was absent in older adults. These results suggest a limitation in older adults' capabilities for flexibly recruiting the attentional network in response to increasing attentional demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-335
Number of pages8
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Attentional control
  • Inhibition
  • Interference
  • Neural flexibility
  • Stroop task
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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