, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 426-436
Date: 18 May 2011

Neural activity, neural connectivity, and the processing of emotionally valenced information in older adults: links with life satisfaction

Abstract

This study examines whether differences in late-life well-being are linked to how older adults encode emotionally valenced information. Using fMRI with 39 older adults varying in life satisfaction, we examined how viewing positive and negative images would affect activation and connectivity of an emotion-processing network. Participants engaged most regions within this network more robustly for positive than for negative images, but within the PFC this effect was moderated by life satisfaction, with individuals higher in satisfaction showing lower levels of activity during the processing of positive images. Participants high in satisfaction showed stronger correlations among network regions—particularly between the amygdala and other emotion processing regions—when viewing positive, as compared with negative, images. Participants low in satisfaction showed no valence effect. Findings suggest that late-life satisfaction is linked with how emotion-processing regions are engaged and connected during processing of valenced information. This first demonstration of a link between neural recruitment and late-life well-being suggests that differences in neural network activation and connectivity may account for the preferential encoding of positive information seen in some older adults.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG 034554).