Effects of reaction time variability and age on brain activity during Stroop task performance
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Variability in reaction time during task performance may reflect fluctuations in attention and cause reduced performance in goal-directed tasks, yet it is unclear whether the mechanisms behind this phenomenon change with age. Using fMRI, we tested young and cognitively healthy older adults with the Stroop task to determine whether aging affects the neural mechanisms underlying intra-individual reaction time variability. We found significant between-group differences in BOLD activity modulated by reaction time. In older adults, longer reaction times were associated with greater activity in frontoparietal attentional areas, while in younger adults longer reaction times were associated with greater activity in default mode network areas. Our results suggest that the neural correlates of reaction time variability change with healthy aging, reinforcing the concept of functional plasticity to maintain high cognitive function throughout the lifespan.
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