Over the last two decades, age-related anatomical and functional brain changes have been characterized by evidence acquired primarily by means of non-invasive functional neuroimaging. These functional changes are believed to favor positive reorganization driven by adaptations to system changes as compensation for cognitive decline. These functional modifications have been linked to residual brain plasticity mechanisms, suggesting that all areas of the brain remain plastic during physiological and pathological aging. A technique that can be used to investigate changes in physiological and pathological aging is non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS). The present paper reviews studies that have applied NIBS in younger and older adults and in patients with dementia to track changes in the cerebral areas involved in a language task (naming). The results of this research suggest that the left frontal and temporal areas are crucial during naming. Moreover, it is suggested that in older adults and patients with dementia, the right prefrontal cortex is also engaged during naming tasks, and naming performance correlates with age and/or the degree of the pathological process. Potential theories underlying the bilateral involvement of the prefrontal cortex are discussed, and the relationship between the bilateral engagement of the prefrontal cortex and the age or degree of pathology is explored.
Keywords: language, brain stimulation, HAROLD, plasticity, cognition
Citation: Cotelli M, Manenti R, Brambilla M, Zanetti O and Miniussi C (2012) Naming ability changes in physiological and pathological aging. Front. Neurosci. 6:120. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00120
Received: 11 June 2012; Paper pending published: 25 June 2012;
Accepted: 27 July 2012; Published online: 20 August 2012.
Edited by:Hari S. Sharma, Uppsala University, Sweden
Reviewed by:Giovanni Tosi, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy
Copyright: © 2012 Cotelli, Manenti, Brambilla, Zanetti and Miniussi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.