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Bauer E.,Justus Liebig University | Sammer G.,Justus Liebig University | Toepper M.,Evangelic Hospital Bielefeld EvKB
BioMed Research International | Year: 2015

Age-related working memory decline is associated with functional cerebral changes within prefrontal cortex (PFC). Kind and meaning of these changes are heavily discussed since they depend on performance level and task load. Hence, we investigated the effects of age, performance level, and load on spatial working memory retrieval-related brain activation in different subregions of the PFC. 19 younger (Y) and 21 older (O) adults who were further subdivided into high performers (HP) and low performers (LP) performed a modified version of the Corsi Block-Tapping test during fMRI. Brain data was analyzed by a 4 (groups: YHP, OHP, YLP, and OLP) × 3 (load levels: loads 4, 5, and 6) ANOVA. Results revealed significant group × load interaction effects within rostral dorsolateral and ventrolateral PFC. YHP showed a flexible neural upregulation with increasing load, whereas YLP reached a resource ceiling at a moderate load level. OHP showed a similar (though less intense) pattern as YHP and may have compensated age-effects at high task load. OLP showed neural inefficiency at low and no upregulation at higher load. Our findings highlight the relevance of age and performance level for load-dependent activation within rostral PFC. Results are discussed in the context of the compensation-related utilization of neural circuits hypothesis (CRUNCH) and functional PFC organization. © 2015 Eva Bauer et al.

Toepper M.,Evangelic Hospital Bielefeld EvKB | Toepper M.,Bielefeld University | Steuwe C.,Evangelic Hospital Bielefeld EvKB | Beblo T.,Evangelic Hospital Bielefeld EvKB | And 8 more authors.
Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders | Year: 2014

Symbols and signs have been suggested to improve the orientation of patients suffering from Alzheimer disease (AD). However, there are hardly any studies that confirm whether AD patients benefit from signs or symbols and which symbol characteristics might improve or impede their symbol comprehension. To address these issues, 30 AD patients and 30 matched healthy controls performed a symbol processing task (SPT) with 4 different item categories. A repeated-measures analysis of variance was run to identify impact of different item categories on performance accuracy in both the experimental groups. Moreover, SPT scores were correlated with neuropsychological test scores in a broad range of other cognitive domains. Finally, diagnostic accuracy of the SPT was calculated by a receiver-operating characteristic curve analysis. Results revealed a global symbol processing dysfunction in AD that was associated with semantic memory and executive deficits. Moreover, AD patients showed a disproportional performance decline at SPT items with visual distraction. Finally, the SPT total score showed high sensitivity and specificity in differentiating between AD patients and healthy controls. The present findings suggest that specific symbol features impede symbol processing in AD and argue for a diagnostic benefit of the SPT in neuropsychological assessment.. Copyright © 2014 by Lippincott Williams &Wilkins.

Toepper M.,Evangelic Hospital Bielefeld EvKB | Toepper M.,Justus Liebig University | Gebhardt H.,Justus Liebig University | Bauer E.,Justus Liebig University | And 5 more authors.
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience | Year: 2014

Healthy aging is accompanied by working memory-related functional cerebral changes. Depending on performance accuracy and the level of working memory demands, older adults show task-related patterns of either increased or decreased activation compared to younger adults. Controversies remain concerning the interpretation of these changes and whether they already manifest in earlier decades of life. To address these issues, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine brain activation during spatial working memory retrieval in 45 healthy individuals between 20 and 68 years of age. Participants performed a modified version of the Corsi Block-Tapping test (CBT). The CBT requires the storage and subsequent reproduction of spatial target sequences and allows modulating working memory load by a variation of sequence length. Results revealed that activation intensity at the lowest CBT load level increased with increasing age and positively correlated with the number of errors. At higher CBT load levels, activation intensity decreased with increasing age together with a disproportional accuracy decline on the behavioral level. Moreover, results suggests that younger individuals showed higher activation intensity at high CBT load than at low CBT load switching to the opposite pattern at an age of about 40 years. Consistent with the assumptions of the Compensation-Related Utilization of Neural Circuits Hypothesis (CRUNCH), the present results reveal specific age-related alterations in left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation in response to increasing task load. Specifically, the results point toward increasing neural inefficiency with age at low task load and a progressive limitation of resources with age at higher task load. The present findings argue for an increasing functional cerebral dysfunction over a time span of 50 years that may partly be compensated on the behavioral level until a resource ceiling is approached. © 2014 Toepper, Gebhardt, Bauer, Haberkamp, Beblo, Gallhofer, Driessen and Sammer.

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