Age-related changes in the cerebral substrates of cognitive procedural learning.
Auteur : Hubert V, Beaunieux H, Chételat G, Platel H, Landeau B, Viader F, Desgranges B, Eustache F
Année : 2009
Journal : Hum Brain Mapp 1097-0193
PubMed Id : 18537110
Cognitive procedural learning occurs in three qualitatively different phases (cognitive, associative, and autonomous). At the beginning of this process, numerous cognitive functions are involved, subtended by distinct brain structures such as the prefrontal and parietal cortex and the cerebellum. As the learning progresses, these cognitive components are gradually replaced by psychomotor abilities, reflected by the increasing involvement of the cerebellum, thalamus, and occipital regions. In elderly subjects, although cognitive studies have revealed a learning effect, performance levels differ during the acquisition of a procedure. The effects of age on the learning of a cognitive procedure have not yet been examined using functional imaging. The aim of this study was therefore to characterize the cerebral substrates involved in the learning of a cognitive procedure, comparing a group of older subjects with young controls. For this purpose, we performed a positron emission tomography activation study using the Tower of Toronto task. A direct comparison of the two groups revealed the involvement of a similar network of brain regions at the beginning of learning (cognitive phase). However, the engagement of frontal and cingulate regions persisted in the older group as learning continued, whereas it ceased in the younger controls. We assume that this additional activation in the older group during the associative and autonomous phases reflected compensatory processes and the fact that some older subjects failed to fully automate the procedure.