Top-Down Modulation and Normal Aging

Authors

  • ADAM GAZZALEY,

    1. Department of Neurology and Physiology, Keck Center of Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
    2. Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • MARK D'ESPOSITO

    1. Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Address for correspondence: Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, 1700 4th Street, Room 102 C, San Francisco, CA 94143-2522. Voice: 415-476-2162; fax: 415-514-4451.
 adam.gazzaley@ucsf.edu

Abstract

Abstract: Normal aging is characterized by cognitive deficits that cross multiple domains and impair the ability of some older individuals to lead productive, high-quality lives. One of the primary goals of research in our laboratories is to study age-related alterations in neural mechanisms that underlie a wide range of cognitive processes so that we may generate a unifying principle of cognitive aging. Top-down modulation is the mechanism by which we enhance neural activity associated with relevant information and suppress activity for irrelevant information, thus establishing a foundation for both attention and memory processes. We use three converging technologies of human neurophysiology to study top-down modulation in aging: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Using these tools we have discovered that healthy older adults exhibit a selective inability to effectively suppress neural activity associated with distracting information and that this top-down suppression deficit is correlated with their memory impairment. We are now further characterizing the basis of these age-related alterations in top-down modulation and investigating interventions to remedy them.

Ancillary