Age-related differences in network flexibility and segregation at rest and during motor performance

T. S. Monteiro, B. R. King, H. Zivari Adab, D. Mantini, S. P. Swinnen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain networks undergo widespread changes in older age. A large body of knowledge gathered about those changes evidenced an increase of functional connectivity between brain networks. Previous work focused mainly on cortical networks during the resting state. Subcortical structures, however, are of critical importance during the performance of motor tasks. In this study, we investigated age-related changes in cortical, striatal and cerebellar functional connectivity at rest and its modulation by motor task execution. To that end, functional MRI from twenty-five young (mean age 21.5 years) and eighteen older adults (mean age 68.6 years) were analysed during rest and while performing a bimanual tracking task practiced over a two-week period. We found that inter-network connectivity among cortical structures was more positive in older adults both during rest and task performance. Functional connectivity within striatal structures decreased with age during rest and task execution. Network flexibility, the changes in network composition from rest to task, was also reduced in older adults, but only in networks with an age-related increase in connectivity. Finally, flexibility of areas in the prefrontal cortex were associated with lower error scores during task execution, especially in older adults. In conclusion, our findings indicate an age-related reduction in the ability to suppress irrelevant network communication, leading to less segregated and less flexible cortical networks. At the same time, striatal connectivity is impaired in older adults, while cerebellar connectivity shows heterogeneous age-related effects during rest and task execution. Future research is needed to clarify how cortical and subcortical connectivity changes relate to one another.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Ageing
  • Bimanual coordination
  • Functional connectivity
  • Motor learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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