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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2018, Article ID 1598178, 12 pages
Research Article

Age-Related Differences in Cortical and Subcortical Activities during Observation and Motor Imagery of Dynamic Postural Tasks: An fMRI Study

1Neurology Unit, Medicine Section, Department of Neuroscience and Movement Science, Faculty of Science and Medicine, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland
2Department of Radiology, Cantonal Hospital of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland

Correspondence should be addressed to A. Mouthon; moc.liamg@yerdua.nohtuom

Received 24 August 2017; Revised 1 December 2017; Accepted 21 December 2017; Published 11 March 2018

Academic Editor: Ambra Bisio

Copyright © 2018 A. Mouthon et al. 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.


Age-related changes in brain activation other than in the primary motor cortex are not well known with respect to dynamic balance control. Therefore, the current study aimed to explore age-related differences in the control of static and dynamic postural tasks using fMRI during mental simulation of balance tasks. For this purpose, 16 elderly (72 ± 5 years) and 16 young adults (27 ± 5 years) were asked to mentally simulate a static and a dynamic balance task by motor imagery (MI), action observation (AO), or the combination of AO and MI (AO + MI). Age-related differences were detected in the form of larger brain activations in elderly compared to young participants, especially in the challenging dynamic task when applying AO + MI. Interestingly, when MI (no visual input) was contrasted to AO (visual input), elderly participants revealed deactivation of subcortical areas. The finding that the elderly demonstrated overactivation in mostly cortical areas in challenging postural conditions with visual input (AO + MI and AO) but deactivation in subcortical areas during MI (no vision) may indicate that elderly individuals allocate more cortical resources to the internal representation of dynamic postural tasks. Furthermore, it might be assumed that they depend more strongly on visual input to activate subcortical internal representations.