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Chapter 12 - Alterations in Executive Functions with Aging

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 November 2019

Kenneth M. Heilman
Affiliation:
University of Florida
Stephen E. Nadeau
Affiliation:
University of Florida
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Summary

It is frequently reported that processing speed slows and executive functions (EFs) become less effective in the course of healthy aging. This chapter highlights research supporting these claims in three areas of investigation: cognitive aging research, the neuropsychological perspective, and studies evaluating the association of EF with structural and functional imaging measures. Several themes emerge in this review. For example, diminished processing speed with aging appears to reflect aging-related changes in the anterior cingulate/superior medial frontal cortex, as well as perceptuomotor slowing. The definition of EF varies between different publications and there is a need for more precise operational definitions. There is also a need to decompose EFs into their component processes. Impairments of EF are strongly related to damage in prefrontal regions, but disorders of EF also occur with injury to nonfrontal regions, indicating that complex networks are involved in EF. Additionally, domain-specific changes beyond the changes in EF are important considerations in network analyses. We propose a method to advance future research on EF by using focal frontal lesion studies and neural network principles as frameworks to expand our understanding of aging-related changes in EF and processing speed.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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