Functional imaging studies consistently find that older adults recruit bilateral brain regions in cognitive tasks that are strongly lateralized in younger adults, a characterization known as the Hemispheric Asymmetry Reduction in Older Adults model. While functional imaging displays what brain areas are active during tasks, it cannot demonstrate what brain regions are necessary for task performance. We used behavioral data from acute stroke patients to test the hypothesis that older adults need both hemispheres for a verbal working memory task that is predominantly left-lateralized in younger adults. Right-handed younger (age ≤ 50, n = 7) and older adults (age > 50, n = 21) with acute unilateral stroke, as well as younger (n = 6) and older (n = 13) transient ischemic attack (TIA) patients, performed a self-paced verbal item-recognition task. Older patients with stroke to either hemisphere had a higher frequency of deficits in the verbal working memory task compared to older TIA patients. Additionally, the deficits in older stroke patients were mainly in retrieval time while the deficits in younger stroke patients were mainly in accuracy. These data suggest that bihemispheric activity is necessary for older adults to successfully perform a verbal working memory task.
- Working memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Clinical Neurology