Age-related changes in prefrontal cortex function: links between sleep EEG and cognition
2011-06-29T08:27:01Z (GMT) by
Healthy ageing has been found to be accompanied by changes in slow wave activity (SWA) and cognitive function. Furthermore, these changes have been seen predominantly in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) compared to other regions of the cortex. Current theories of cognitive ageing propose that this occurs due to a specified deterioration of neuronal substrates of the PFC, and as such, changes in SWA and cognitive function may decline at similar rates due to similar underlying aetiology. The main aim of the current thesis was to explore age-related differences in electroencephalographic (EEG) SWA during the first NREM period and cognitive performance that relies on the integrity of the PFC: executive function and social cognition. The extent to which executive function (reliant on dorsolateral PFC areas) and social cognitive function (reliant on ventromedial PFC regions) show similar age-related deterioration was investigated in Study 1. Here, 16 young (22.2 years) and 16 older (71.5 years) adults were administered with a cognitive testing battery including executive function measures: Verbal Fluency (VF) and Tower of London (TOL); as well as measures of social cognition: Go/No-go, Emotional Prosody and Ekman 60 Faces. Not all measures of PFC function were affected to the same extent. The older group performed significantly worse on the TOL, but not on the VF test. Additionally, simple aspects of social cognition did not display differences between the groups, but the older group performed significantly worse than the young group on more complex aspects of recognition of emotion from facial expression (Ekman 60 Faces) and Emotional Prosody. As most studies of cognitive ageing are cross-sectional and show large agerelated changes, the remainder of this thesis focused on age-related changes using a longitudinal design over a relatively small ageing period (mean = 6.29 years). The average age of participants at baseline was 67.1 years and the average age at follow-up was 73.4 years. In Study 2, in a sample of 11 participants, performance on executive function tests was measured (TOL, VF and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test: WCST). As found in the cross-sectional analyses reported in Study 1, the TOL task was found to be the most sensitive indicator of age-related changes, as this showed a decline with age; whereas, VF and WCST remained stable over time. Furthermore, in Study 3, localised SWA was recorded via EEG, and significant declines were found in low frequency delta (0.5 – 1 Hz), which was localised to the left frontal region. (Continues...).