More is less: Emotion induced prefrontal cortex activity habituates in aging

David R. Roalf, Trisha A. Pruis, Alexander A. Stevens, Jeri S. Janowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Several recent studies have documented age-related changes in brain activity-less amygdala activity and higher prefrontal activity in response to emotional stimuli. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined whether aging also affects the maintenance of activity to emotional stimuli and whether maintenance differs by the valence (negative, neutral and positive) of the pictures. Younger participants had a larger volume of activity in the amygdala but less in the prefrontal cortex than the old. The old showed more habituation to highly arousing negative but not positive or neutral stimuli in prefrontal cortex as compared to younger participants. Thus prefrontal cortex activity indexes emotion in the elderly, but not the young. Amplified prefrontal activity suggests elderly increase cognitive control for negative, highly arousing emotional stimuli, but it is not maintained. Taken together, age-related increases in prefrontal activity and reduced amygdala activity may underlie observed affective changes in aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1634-1650
Number of pages17
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Aging
  • Amygdala
  • Emotion
  • FMRI
  • Habituation
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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