Language

Verbal skills assessed by tests of word knowledge and verbal reasoning are considered virtually age invariant, although age-related differences have been reported in more subtle aspects of language processing. A possible explanation of relative stability of some linguistic skills throughout the life-span lies in the fact that hours of sustained practice in reading and oral expression fill our day. Thus, superior vocabulary skills frequently noticed in older adults can be attributed to their extensive practice in that domain. In addition, natural languages are characterized by such a high degree of redundancy that many linguistic

Sagittal Coronal Saqittal Corona!

Sagittal Coronal Saqittal Corona!

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Figure 3 An example of a H2O PET activation map in a recognition memory task. (Left) A composite of 12 younger subjects. (Right) A composite of 12 older subjects. The labels VAC and VPC indicate a standard vertical reference plane passing through the anterior and posterior ommissures (AC and PC), respectively. The activation values (z scores) are mapped onto a coordinate grid (Talairach space) anchored at the AC-PC line. Note a substantially broader activation in older adults that in their younger counterparts [images courtesy of D. J. Madden, and first appeared in N. Raz (2000), in Handbook of Aging and Cognition—II, (F. I. M. Craik and T. A. Salthouse, Eds.), pp. 1-90. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ].

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Figure 3 An example of a H2O PET activation map in a recognition memory task. (Left) A composite of 12 younger subjects. (Right) A composite of 12 older subjects. The labels VAC and VPC indicate a standard vertical reference plane passing through the anterior and posterior ommissures (AC and PC), respectively. The activation values (z scores) are mapped onto a coordinate grid (Talairach space) anchored at the AC-PC line. Note a substantially broader activation in older adults that in their younger counterparts [images courtesy of D. J. Madden, and first appeared in N. Raz (2000), in Handbook of Aging and Cognition—II, (F. I. M. Craik and T. A. Salthouse, Eds.), pp. 1-90. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ].

operations can be performed literally with half of the information deleted. However, when a task calls for higher than usual demands on the working memory or speed of processing, age-related declines in linguistic performance become apparent.

Very little is known about neural substrates of age-related differences in linguistic functions. It is unclear whether declines in performance in a given language function reflect changes in general resources such as speed and WM, or specific deterioration of brain circuitry responsible for language processing. An optimistic belief in the lack of age effects on language may be responsible for the dearth of neuroimaging studies of age differences in that domain, although the results of recent investigations that did employ measures of linguistic competence may temper that optimism. For instance, a longitudinal study of a small sample of healthy middle-aged adults showed that reduction of temporal lobe volumes may be associated with mild but statistically significant worsening of performance on language tests.

Neuroimaging findings suggest that although neural mechanisms responsible for semantic processing and filtering of verbal information are unaffected by age, older adults may experience difficulty in recruiting cortical resources for processing of novel pseudolin-guistic stimuli.

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