Working Memory and Executive Functions in the Aging Brain

Four major sections are covered in this chapter. First, we provide a brief overview of new evidence that has emerged over the past 10 years about the structural aging of brain regions known to be involved in working memory and executive control, and the life time course of their decline. Second, we consider evidence that has emerged from functional neuroimaging pertaining to the decline and compensatory contributions of executive functions and their role in working memory. The third section focuses primarily on visual working memory because of the development and widespread use of the visual change detection paradigm and its application to aging working memory. In the fourth section we focus on new developments in our understanding of age effects on inhibitory and attentional functions, and how these affect working memory. In a final section we consider life span influences and the potential for life long plasticity of working memory and executive functions, and factors that may modify their effectiveness in later life.