J Neurosci. 2023 Aug 18:JN-RM-0023-23. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0023-23.2023. Online ahead of print.
Large-scale brain networks undergo widespread changes with older age and in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Research in young adults suggest that the underlying functional architecture of brain networks remains relatively consistent between rest and task states. However, it remains unclear whether the same is true in aging and to what extent any changes may be related to accumulation of AD pathology such as beta-amyloid (Aβ) and tau. Here, we examined age-related differences in functional connectivity (FC) between rest and an object-scene mnemonic discrimination task using fMRI in young and older adults (both females and males). We used an a priori episodic memory network (EMN) parcellation scheme associated with object and scene processing, that included anterior-temporal regions and posterior-medial regions. We also used positron emission topography to measure Aβ and tau in older adults. The correlation between rest and task FC (i.e., FC similarity) was reduced in older compared to younger adults. Older adults with lower FC similarity in EMN had higher levels of tau in the same EMN regions and performed worse during object, but not scene, trials during the fMRI task. These findings link AD pathology, particularly tau, to a less stable functional architecture in memory networks. They also suggest that smaller changes in FC organization between rest and task states may facilitate better performance in older age. Interpretations are limited by methodological factors related to different acquisition directions and durations between rest and task scans.Significance StatementThe brain’s large-scale network organization is relatively consistent between rest and task states in young adults. We found that memory networks in older adults were less correlated between rest and (memory) task states compared to young adults. Older adults with less correlated brain networks also had higher levels of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology in the same regions, suggesting that a less stable network architecture may reflect the early evolution of AD. Older adults with less correlated brain networks also performed worse during the memory task suggesting that more similar network organization between rest and task states may facilitate better performance in older age.