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Background: Effort mobilization is important in older adults to stay healthy, notably for decision-making. The process of decreasing subjective value of a reward as required effort increases is called effort discounting. By identifying underlying neural correlates related to effort discounting, we can better understand factors affecting normal cognitive aging. Methods: We acquired resting-state functional magnetic resonance images from 19 cognitively normal older adults (10 males; 66±6 years). Participants completed a computerized cognitive task—called Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task—capturing the willingness to expend effort for rewards through binary choices between high-reward-high-effort or low-reward-low-effort option to obtain varying monetary rewards. We modelled subjective value to assess the k parameter, effort discounting. A functional connectivity analysis examined the involvement of regions associated to the salience network. Results: The seed-to-voxel analysis revealed increased connectivity within the precuneus cortex and to clusters in the right temporal and posterior cingulate gyri, with increased k-value or decreased willingness to expend effort. There was also decreased connectivity between the anterior cingulate and right lateral occipital cortex, and between the left anterior insula to the cerebellum and precuneus cortex. Conclusions: The process of effort discounting is correlated to functional connectivity changes involving the precuneus, anterior cingulate, and left anterior insula in healthy older adults.
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