Research Topic

Inhibition as an Underlying Mechanism of Cognitive and Motor Deficits in Healthy Aging and Age-Related Disease

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Based on the view that enhanced top-down control can improve performance in situations where performance is degraded by other factors, increasing attention to task-relevant stimuli or inhibiting task-irrelevant information would allow older adults to alleviate performance declines resulting from ...

Based on the view that enhanced top-down control can improve performance in situations where performance is degraded by other factors, increasing attention to task-relevant stimuli or inhibiting task-irrelevant information would allow older adults to alleviate performance declines resulting from neurodegenerative processes. Contrarily, age-related deficits in the ability to control cerebral inhibition may explain a wide range of motor and cognitive deficits that healthy older adults experience in daily life such as impaired coordination skills and declines in attention, concentration, and learning abilities.

Notably, parts of the brain network that regulate inhibition are located in the prefrontal cortex which is more prone to age-related structural changes than posterior areas. Indeed, recent structural imaging studies clearly show that age-related changes in the microstructural organization of the prefrontal-basal ganglia network or prefrontal-premotor network are associated with impaired inhibitory control. This structural decline may occur in parallel with depletion in the concentrations of regional levels of neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), acetylcholine, dopamine, and glutamate. For example, deficiencies in GABAergic activity and impaired interactions between GABAergic and cholinergic system have been documented in healthy aging and older adults with mild cognitive impairments who also demonstrated deficient motor inhibition.

The addition of a neurochemical perspective to the study of brain function and neuroplasticity is highly innovative and would allow a deeper understanding of mechanisms by which inhibitory control is affected by age and disease. Another principal challenge is to examine whether beneficial effects on cognitive/motor functioning in general, and inhibitory functions in particular, could be further enhanced by physical training or by combining exercise training with other types of interventions such as pharmacological interventions or non-invasive brain stimulation techniques which may be used to target specific brain structures or neurotransmitter systems.

Given that, the aim of this Research Topic is twofold: (1) highlight possible mechanisms that may underlie deficits in inhibitory control with aging, and (2) examine possible exercise training paradigms or interventions that would mitigate declines in inhibitory control and allow individuals to maintain their cognitive and motor skills as they advance into older age. A particular focus should be made on the interaction between cognitive and motor functions in age and neurodegenerative processes; specifically but not exclusively: older adults with mild cognitive impairments and Parkinson's disease.

This Research Topic aims to provide a state of the art overview on the underlying causes that lead to an insufficient inhibitory control in healthy aging and age-related pathological conditions and discuss possible intervention strategies to mitigate the deterioration of cognitive-motor performance in the aging population. Contributions may include (but are not limited to) original research papers on the topics mentioned above. Priority will be given to research papers that provide novel insights into these topics by applying multimodal neuroimaging approach. However, behavioral studies with strong theoretical background, systematic reviews, and meta-analysis papers will also be considered. The latter should, nonetheless, focus on references of the past 5 years. Animal models will not be considered.


Keywords: Inhibition, Brain neurotransmitters, Brain networks, Cognitive-motor coupling, Physical activity


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