The Decline in Intrinsic Connectivity Between the Salience Network and Locus Coeruleus in Older Adults: Implications for Distractibility


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We examined functional connectivity between the locus coeruleus (LC) and the salience network in healthy young and older adults to investigate why people become more prone to distraction with age. Recent findings suggest that the LC plays an important role in focusing processing on salient or goal-relevant information from multiple incoming sensory inputs (Mather et al., 2016). We hypothesized that the connection between LC and the salience network declines in older adults, and therefore the salience network fails to appropriately filter out irrelevant sensory signals. To examine this possibility, we used resting-state-like fMRI data, in which all task-related activities were regressed out (Fair et al., 2007; Elliott et al., 2019) and performed a functional connectivity analysis based on the time-course of LC activity. Older adults showed reduced functional connectivity between the LC and salience network compared with younger adults. Additionally, the salience network was relatively more coupled with the frontoparietal network than the default-mode network in older adults compared with younger adults, even though all task-related activities were regressed out. Together, these findings suggest that reduced interactions between LC and the salience network impairs the ability to prioritize the importance of incoming events, and in turn, the salience network fails to initiate network switching (e.g., Menon and Uddin, 2010; Uddin, 2015) that would promote further attentional processing. A chronic lack of functional connection between LC and salience network may limit older adults' attentional and executive control resources.



functional connectivity, older adults, locus coeruleus, fMRI, resting-state activity