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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 08 March 2010 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/neuro.09.010.2010

Age-related changes in processing speed: unique contributions of cerebellar and prefrontal cortex

1
Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA
2
Department of Radiology and Radiological Science, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA
3
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of New Mexico, and the Mind Research Network, Albuquerque, NM, USA
Age-related declines in processing speed are hypothesized to underlie the widespread changes in cognition experienced by older adults. We used a structural covariance approach to identify putative neural networks that underlie age-related structural changes associated with processing speed for 42 adults ranging in age from 19 to 79 years. To characterize a potential mechanism by which age-related gray matter changes lead to slower processing speed, we examined the extent to which cerebral small vessel disease influenced the association between age-related gray matter changes and processing speed. A frontal pattern of gray matter and white matter variation that was related to cerebral small vessel disease, as well as a cerebellar pattern of gray matter and white matter variation were uniquely related to age-related declines in processing speed. These results demonstrate that at least two distinct factors affect age-related changes in processing speed, which might be slowed by mitigating cerebral small vessel disease and factors affecting declines in cerebellar morphology.
Keywords:
aging, processing speed, cerebellum, cerebral small vessel disease, structural covariance
Citation:
Eckert MA, Keren NI, Roberts DR, Calhoun VD and Harris KC (2010). Age-related changes in processing speed: unique contributions of cerebellar and prefrontal cortex . Front. Hum. Neurosci. 4:10. doi: 10.3389/neuro.09.010.2010
Received:
13 November 2009;
 Paper pending published:
03 January 2010;
Accepted:
24 January 2010;
 Published online:
08 March 2010.

Edited by:

Anna C. Nobre, University of Oxford, UK

Reviewed by:

Jeanne Townsend, University of California San Diego, USA
A. Morcom, University of Edinburgh, UK
Copyright:
© 2010 Eckert, Keren, Roberts, Calhoun and Harris. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence:
Mark A. Eckert, Hearing Research Program, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, 135 Rutledge Avenue, MSC 550, Charleston, SC 29425-5500, USA. e-mail: eckert@musc.edu