Cooperative contributions of structural and functional connectivity to successful memory in aging.

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Understanding the precise relation between functional connectivity and structural (white matter) connectivity and how these relationships account for cognitive changes in older adults are major challenges for neuroscience. We investigate these issues using an approach in which structural equation modeling (SEM) is employed to integrate functional and structural connectivity data from younger and older adults (n = 62), analyzed with a common framework based on regions connected by canonical tract groups (CTGs). CTGs (e.g., uncinate fasciculus) serve as a common currency between functional and structural connectivity matrices, and ensure equivalent sparsity in connectome information. We used this approach to investigate the neural mechanisms supporting memory for items and memory for associations, and how they are affected by healthy aging. We found that different structural and functional CTGs made independent contributions to source and item memory performance, suggesting that both forms of connectivity underlie age-related differences in specific forms of memory. Furthermore, the relationship between functional and structural connectivity was best explained by a general relationship between latent constructs-a relationship absent in any specific CTG group. These results provide insights into the relationship between structural and functional connectivity patterns, and elucidate their relative contribution to age-related differences in source memory performance.





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Davis, Simon W, Amanda Szymanski, Homa Boms, Thomas Fink and Roberto Cabeza (2019). Cooperative contributions of structural and functional connectivity to successful memory in aging. Network neuroscience (Cambridge, Mass.), 3(1). pp. 173–194. 10.1162/netn_a_00064 Retrieved from

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Simon Wilton Davis

Associate Professor in Neurology

My research centers around the use of structural and functional imaging measures to study the shifts in network architecture in the aging brain. I am specifically interested in changes in how changes in structural and functional connectivity associated with aging impact the semantic retrieval of word or fact knowledge. Currently this involves asking why older adults have particular difficulty in certain kinds of semantic retrieval, despite the fact that vocabularies and knowledge stores typically improve with age.

A second line of research involves asking questions about how this semantic system is organized in young adults, understanding which helps form a basis for asking questions about older adults. To what degree are these semantic retrieval processes lateralized? What cognitive factors affect this laterality? How are brain structures like the corpus callosum involved in mediating distributed activation patterns associated with semantic retrieval? 


Roberto Cabeza

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

My laboratory investigates the neural correlates of memory and cognition in young and older adults using fMRI. We have three main lines of research: First, we distinguish the neural correlates of various episodic memory processes. For example, we have compared encoding vs. retrieval, item vs. source memory, recall vs. recognition, true vs. false memory, and emotional vs. nonemotional memory. We are particularly interested in the contribution of prefrontal cortex (PFC) and medial temporal lobe (MTL) subregions and their interactions. Second, we investigate similarities and differences between the neural correlates of episodic memory and other memory and cognitive functions (working, semantic, implicit, and procedural memory; attention; perception, etc.). The main goal of this cross-functional approach is to understand the contributions of brain regions shared by different cognitive functions. Finally, in both episodic memory and cross-function studies, we also examine the effects of healthy and pathological aging. Regarding episodic memory, we have linked processes differentially affected by aging (e.g., item vs. source memory, recall vs. recognition) to the effects of aging on specific PFC and MTL subregions. Regarding cross-function comparisons, we identify age-related changes in activity that are common to various functions. For example, we have found an age-related increase in bilaterality that occurs for many functions (memory, attention, language, perception, and motor) and is associated with functional compensation.

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