Hemispheric asymmetry and aging: Right hemisphere decline or asymmetry reduction

Florin Dolcos, Heather J. Rice, Roberto Cabeza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We review evidence for two models of hemispheric asymmetry and aging: the right hemi-aging model, which proposes that the right hemisphere shows greater age-related decline than the left hemisphere, and the hemispheric asymmetry reduction in old adults (HAROLD) model, which proposes that frontal activity during cognitive performance tends to be less lateralized in older than in younger adults. The right hemi-aging model is supported by behavioral studies in the domains of cognitive, affective, and sensorimotor processing, but the evidence has been mixed. In contrast, available evidence is generally consistent with the HAROLD model, which is supported primarily by functional neuroimaging evidence in the domains of episodic memory encoding and retrieval, semantic memory retrieval, working memory, perception, and inhibitory control. Age-related asymmetry reductions may reflect functional compensation or dedifferentiation, and the evidence, although scarce, tends to support the compensation hypothesis. The right hemi-aging and the HAROLD models are not incompatible. For example, the latter may apply to prefrontal regions and the former to other brain regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)819-825
Number of pages7
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • HAROLD model
  • Neuropsychology
  • Right hemi-aging model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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