Older adults typically report increased difficulty with language production, while its neural bases are less clear. The current study investigated the neural bases of age-related differences in language production at the word level and the modulating effect of task difficulty, focusing on task-based functional connectivity. Using an English phonological Go/No-Go picture naming task, task difficulty was manipulated by varying the proportion of naming trials (Go trials) and inhibition trials (No-Go trials) across runs. Behaviorally, compared to younger adults, older adults performed worse, and showed larger effects of task difficulty. Neurally, older adults had lower within language network connectivity compared to younger adults. Moreover, older adults’ language network became less segregated as task difficulty increased. These results are consistent with the Compensation-Related Utilization of Neural Circuits Hypothesis, suggesting that the brain becomes less specified and efficient with increased task difficulty, and that these effects are stronger among older adults (i.e., more dedifferentiated).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Language and Linguistics
- Linguistics and Language
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Speech and Hearing