A task-invariant cognitive reserve network

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Abstract

The concept of cognitive reserve (CR) can explain individual differences in susceptibility to cognitive or functional impairment in the presence of age or disease-related brain changes. Epidemiologic evidence indicates that CR helps maintain performance in the face of pathology across multiple cognitive domains. We therefore tried to identify a single, “task-invariant” CR network that is active during the performance of many disparate tasks. In imaging data acquired from 255 individuals age 20–80 while performing 12 different cognitive tasks, we used an iterative approach to derive a multivariate network that was expressed during the performance of all tasks, and whose degree of expression correlated with IQ, a proxy for CR. When applied to held out data or forward applied to fMRI data from an entirely different activation task, network expression correlated with IQ. Expression of the CR pattern accounted for additional variance in fluid reasoning performance over and above the influence of cortical thickness, and also moderated between cortical thickness and reasoning performance, consistent with the behavior of a CR network. The identification of a task-invariant CR network supports the idea that life experiences may result in brain processing differences that might provide reserve against age- or disease-related changes across multiple tasks.

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