Age, Executive Functions, and Visuospatial Functioning in Healthy Older Adults

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Visuospatial test performance declines with age, whereas verbal test performance remains fairly constant. This pattern has been attributed to an age-related decline in either right-hemisphere functioning or executive functions (EF), which may be associated with prefrontal cortical decline. We administered timed and untimed EF tests and visuospatial tests requiring substantial integrative skill (I-VS) or little or no integrative skill (non-I-VS) to young-old (74 and younger) and old-old (75 and older) healthy volunteers. Groups differed on I-VS tests and on many EF tests but not on non-I-VS tests. I-VS tests correlated highly with tests of executive functions, but non-I-VS tests did not. These results are interpreted as supporting the proposal that an age-related decline in EF underlies the decline in visuospatial test performance observed with advancing age. Other issues regarding the relationship between age and EF are discussed.

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