Functional and Structural Substrates of Neural Modulation in Older Adults After Executive Control Training
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The fronto-parietal control network (FPCN) and dorsal attention network (DAN) are critical for goal-directed cognition (GDC), which is known to decline with advancing age. Here, we investigated whether a strategy-based executive control training intervention (GOALS) would alter recruitment of the FPCN and DAN in healthy older adults. We also investigated whether functional brain changes would be associated with improvements in GDC and structural integrity of frontal-posterior white matter tracts. Thirteen participants were randomly assigned to the five-week long GOALS training and 12 were randomly assigned to a time and intensity matched control intervention group. Both groups were tested before and after intervention on a goal-directed cognitive task while undergoing fMRI scanning. We observed post-training increases in activation within the FPCN during a selective working memory task requiring GDC in the GOALS training group as compared to the control group, p < .001. These increases were positively correlated with the integrity of white matter pathways connecting frontal and posterior brain regions in the GOALS group, p < .001. In conclusion, this study is the first to our knowledge to report changes in functional neural networks known to subserve GDC in older adults after training and relate these changes to the integrity of underlying white matter tracts.