The functional oculomotor network and saccadic cognitive control in healthy elders

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Abstract

Decline in executive function is the most common age-associated cognitive deficit and may be a risk factor for neurodegenerative disease. The antisaccade (AS) task involves inhibition of a prepotent visuomotor response and is a well-validated executive function test in aging and neurodegeneration. We investigated the functional connectivity of the cortical oculomotor network during successful AS performance in healthy elders. Elevated BOLD activity in the right lateral frontal eye field (rlatFEF), a region linked to volume loss in individuals with impaired AS performance, was associated with worse AS performance and weaker network efficiency. In contrast, hub integrity of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) was associated with better AS performance. These data suggest that while several right lateral frontal regions are central nodes in the oculomotor network, the rlatFEF demonstrates early neural aberrations and the rDLPFC and rACC continue to support inhibitory cognitive control in healthy elders. We conclude that alterations in AS task functional connectivity, quantified as hub and network efficiency, may be clinically-relevant biomarkers of cognitive decline in executive functioning.

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