Neural distinctiveness declines with age in auditory cortex and is associated with auditory GABA levels

In this study, we investigated whether neural dedifferentiation extends to auditory cortex. Inspired by previous animal work, we also investigated whether individual differences in GABA are associated with individual differences in neural distinctiveness in humans. 20 healthy young adults (ages 18–29) and 23 healthy older adults (over 65) completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, during which neural activity was estimated while they listened to music and foreign speech. GABA levels in the auditory, ventrovisual and sensorimotor cortex were estimated in the same individuals in a separate magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) scan. Relative to the younger adults, the older adults exhibited both (1) less distinct activation patterns for music vs. speech stimuli and (2) lower GABA levels in the auditory cortex. Also, individual differences in auditory GABA levels (but not ventrovisual or sensorimotor GABA levels) were associated with individual differences in neural distinctiveness in the auditory cortex in the older adults. These results demonstrate that age-related neural dedifferentiation extends to the auditory cortex and suggest that declining GABA levels may play a role in neural dedifferentiation in older adults.
Source: NeuroImage - Category: Neuroscience Source Type: research

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