Age differences in the neural processing of semantics, within and beyond the core semantic network

Wei Wu*, Paul Hoffman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Aging is associated with functional activation changes in domain-specific regions and large-scale brain networks. This preregistered Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study investigated these effects within the domain of semantic cognition. Participants completed 1 nonsemantic and 2 semantic tasks. We found no age differences in semantic activation in core semantic regions. However, the right inferior frontal gyrus showed difficulty-related increases in both age groups. This suggests that age-related upregulation of this area may be a compensatory response to increased processing demands. At a network level, older people showed more engagement in the default mode network and less in the executive multiple-demand network, aligning with older people’s greater knowledge reserves and executive declines. In contrast, activation was age-invariant in semantic control regions. Finally, older adults showed reduced demand-related modulation of multiple-demand network activation in the nonsemantic task but not the semantic tasks. These findings provide a new perspective on the neural basis of semantic cognition in aging, suggesting that preserved function in specialized semantic networks may help to maintain semantic cognition in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-105
Number of pages18
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Early online date25 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • semantic cognition
  • cognitive ageing
  • executive function
  • knowledge
  • fMRI
  • inferior frontal gyrus


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