Language processing in age-related macular degeneration associated with unique functional connectivity signatures in the right hemisphere.

Abstract

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a retinal disease associated with significant vision loss among older adults. Previous large-scale behavioral studies indicate that people with AMD are at increased risk of cognitive deficits in language processing, particularly in verbal fluency tasks. The neural underpinnings of any relationship between AMD and higher cognitive functions, such as language processing, remain unclear. This study aims to address this issue using independent component analysis of spontaneous brain activity at rest. In 2 components associated with visual processing, we observed weaker functional connectivity in the primary visual cortex and lateral occipital cortex in AMD patients compared with healthy controls, indicating that AMD might lead to differences in the neural representation of vision. In a component related to language processing, we found that increasing connectivity within the right inferior frontal gyrus was associated with better verbal fluency performance across all older adults, and the verbal fluency effect was greater in AMD patients than controls in both right inferior frontal gyrus and right posterior temporal regions. As the behavioral performance of our patients is as good as that of controls, these findings suggest that preservation of verbal fluency performance in AMD patients might be achieved through higher contribution from right hemisphere regions in bilateral language networks. If that is the case, there may be an opportunity to promote cognitive resilience among seniors with AMD or other forms of late-life vision loss.

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Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.11.003

Publication Info

Zhuang, Jie, David J Madden, Xuan Duong-Fernandez, Nan-Kuei Chen, Scott W Cousins, Guy G Potter, Michele T Diaz, Heather E Whitson, et al. (2017). Language processing in age-related macular degeneration associated with unique functional connectivity signatures in the right hemisphere. Neurobiol Aging, 63. pp. 65–74. 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.11.003 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/15952.

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Madden

David Joseph Madden

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

My research focuses primarily on the cognitive neuroscience of aging: the investigation of age-related changes in perception, attention, and memory, using both behavioral measures and neuroimaging techniques, including positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

The behavioral measures have focused on reaction time, with the goal of distinguishing age-related changes in specific cognitive abilities from more general effects arising from a slowing in elementary perceptual processes. The cognitive abilities of interest include selective attention as measured in visual search tasks, semantic and episodic memory retrieval, and executive control processes.

The behavioral measures are necessary to define the cognitive abilities of interest, and the neuroimaging techniques help define the functional neuroanatomy of those abilities. The PET and fMRI measures provide information regarding neural activity during cognitive performance. DTI is a recently developed technique that images the structural integrity of white matter. The white matter tracts of the brain provide critical pathways linking the gray matter regions, and thus this work will complement the studies using PET and fMRI that focus on gray matter activation.

A current focus of the research program is the functional connectivity among regions, not only during cognitive task performance but also during rest. These latter measures, referred to as intrinsic functional connectivity, are beginning to show promise as an index of overall brain functional efficiency, which can be assessed without the implementation of a specific cognitive task. From DTI, information can be obtained regarding how anatomical connectivity constrains intrinsic functional connectivity. It will be important to determine the relative influence of white matter pathway integrity, intrinsic functional connectivity, and task-related functional connectivity, as mediators of age-related differences in behavioral measures of cognitive performance.

Ultimately, the research program can help link age-related changes in cognitive performance to changes in the structure and function of specific neural systems. The results also have implications for clinical translation, in terms of the identification of neural biomarkers for the diagnosis of neural pathology and targeting rehabilitation procedures.


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