Where Is ELSA? The Early to Late Shift in Aging
Studies of cognitive and neural aging have recently provided evidence of a shift from an early- to late-onset cognitive control strategy, linked with temporally extended activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). It has been uncertain, however, whether this age-related shift is unique to PFC and executive control tasks or whether the functional location might vary depending on the particular cognitive processes that are altered. The present study tested whether an early-to-late shift in aging (ELSA) might emerge in the medial temporal lobes (MTL) during a protracted context memory task comprising both anticipatory cue (retrieval preparation) and retrieval probe (retrieval completion) phases. First, we found reduced MTL activity in older adults during the early retrieval preparation phase coupled with increased MTL activity during the late retrieval completion phase. Second, we found that functional connectivity between MTL and PFC regions was higher during retrieval preparation in young adults but higher during retrieval completion in older adults, suggesting an important interactive relationship between the ELSA pattern in MTL and PFC. Taken together, these results critically suggest that aging results in temporally lagged activity even in regions not typically associated with cognitive control, such as the MTL.