Frontal-striatal circuits in cognitive aging: Evidence for caudate involvement

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Changes in cognition with aging have been claimed to be due in large part to a decline in frontal lobe function. However, at our present state of knowledge, the emphasis on the frontal lobes to the exclusion of the rest of the frontal-striatal circuits of which they are a part is unwarranted. To argue this point, I consider another anatomical candidate within these circuits, the caudate. Evidence is presented that the caudate decreases in size with age as much as the frontal lobes and that damage to either the frontal lobes or the caudate is accompanied by declines in inhibitory processes, executive control, and cognitive speed similar to those seen in normal aging. Separating the unique contributions of the frontal lobes and the caudate to these circuits is difficult but should be the focus of future studies of the biological basis of cognitive aging.


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David C. Rubin

Juanita M. Kreps Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

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My main research interest has been in long-term memory, especially for complex (or "real-world") stimuli. This work includes the study of autobiographical memory and oral traditions, as well as prose. I have also studied memory as it is more commonly done in experimental psychology laboratories using lists. In addition to this purely behavioral research, which I plan to continue, I work on memory in clinical populations with the aid of a National Institute of Mental Health grant to study PTSD and on the underlying neural basis of memory the aid of a National Institute of Aging grant to study autobiographical memory using fMRI.

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