Task aftereffect reorganization of resting state functional brain networks in healthy aging and mild cognitive impairment


Psychological Science

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The view of the human brain as a complex network has led to considerable advances in understanding the brain’s network organization during rest and task, in both health and disease. Here, we propose that examining brain networks within the task aftereffect model, in which we compare resting-state networks immediately before and after a cognitive engagement task, may enhance differentiation between those with normal cognition and those with increased risk for cognitive decline. We validated this model by comparing the pre- and post-task resting-state functional network organization of neurologically intact elderly and those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) derived from electroencephalography recordings. We have demonstrated that a cognitive task among MCI patients induced, compared to healthy controls, a significantly higher increment in global network integration with an increased number of vertices taking a more central role within the network from the pre- to post-task resting state. Such modified network organization may aid cognitive performance by increasing the flow of information through the most central vertices among MCI patients who seem to require more communication and recruitment across brain areas to maintain or improve task performance. This could indicate that MCI patients are engaged in compensatory activation, especially as both groups did not differ in their task performance. In addition, no significant group differences were observed in network topology during the pre-task resting state. Our findings thus emphasize that the task aftereffect model is relevant for enhancing the identification of network topology abnormalities related to cognitive decline, and also for improving our understanding of inherent differences in brain network organization for MCI patients, and could therefore represent a valid marker of cortical capacity and/or cortical health.

Journal Title

Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience

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