Neural broadening or neural attenuation? Investigating age-related dedifferentiation in the face network in a large lifespan sample

Joonkoo Park*, Joshua Carp, Kristen M. Kennedy, Karen M. Rodrigue, Gerard N. Bischof, Chih-Mao Huang, Jennifer R. Rieck, Thad A. Polk, Denise C. Park

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations

Abstract

Previous studies have found that cortical responses to different stimuli become less distinctive as people get older. This age-related dedifferentiation may reflect the broadening of the tuning curves of category-selective neurons (broadening hypothesis) or it may be due to decreased activation of category-selective neurons (attenuation hypothesis). In this study,weevaluated these hypotheses in the context of the face-selective neural network. Over 300 participants, ranging in age from 20 to 89 years, viewed images of faces, houses, and control stimuli in a functional magnetic resonance imaging session. Regions within the core face network and extended face network were identified in individual subjects. Activation in many of these regions became significantly less face-selective with age, confirming previous reports of age-related dedifferentiation. Consistent with the broadening hypothesis, this dedifferentiation in the fusiform face area (FFA) was driven by increased activation to houses. In contrast, dedifferentiation in the extended face network was driven by decreased activation to faces, consistent with the attenuation hypothesis. These results suggest that age-related dedifferentiation reflects distinct processes in different brain areas. More specifically, dedifferentiation in FFA activity may be due to broadening of the tuning curves for face-selective neurons, while dedifferentiation in the extended face network reflects reduced face- or emotion-selective activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2154-2158
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume32
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 8 Feb 2012

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Neural broadening or neural attenuation? Investigating age-related dedifferentiation in the face network in a large lifespan sample'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this