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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 24 (2011), Issue 3, Pages 187-199

Validating Age-Related Functional Imaging Changes in Verbal Working Memory with Acute Stroke

Timothy B. Meier,1 Lin Naing,2 Lisa E. Thomas,3 Veena A. Nair,4 Argye E. Hillis,5 and Vivek Prabhakaran1,2,4

1Neuroscience Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA
2School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA
3Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, MA, USA
4Department of Radiology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA
5Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MA, USA

Received 25 August 2011; Accepted 25 August 2011

Copyright © 2011 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Functional imaging studies consistently find that older adults recruit bilateral brain regions in cognitive tasks that are strongly lateralized in younger adults, a characterization known as the Hemispheric Asymmetry Reduction in Older Adults model. While functional imaging displays what brain areas are active during tasks, it cannot demonstrate what brain regions are necessary for task performance. We used behavioral data from acute stroke patients to test the hypothesis that older adults need both hemispheres for a verbal working memory task that is predominantly left-lateralized in younger adults. Right-handed younger (age ≥ 50, n = 7) and older adults (age > 50, n = 21) with acute unilateral stroke, as well as younger (n = 6) and older (n = 13) transient ischemic attack (TIA) patients, performed a self-paced verbal item-recognition task. Older patients with stroke to either hemisphere had a higher frequency of deficits in the verbal working memory task compared to older TIA patients. Additionally, the deficits in older stroke patients were mainly in retrieval time while the deficits in younger stroke patients were mainly in accuracy. These data suggest that bihemispheric activity is necessary for older adults to successfully perform a verbal working memory task.