Skip to main content

Sex- and age-related characteristics of brain functioning during task switching (fMRI study)


This study is focused on changes in the brain function throughout the adulthood in healthy men and women performing task switching (TS) in the visual modality. One hundred and forty healthy subjects aged 20 to 65 years (69 men) participated in the experiments. In the fMRI study, the subjects performed a test that required switching attention between two objectives (classifying figures according to their form or number). Using the voxel-based morphometry (VBM), we calculated the volumes of gray and white matter in the whole brain and in selected areas. The results showed that a common feature of different age and sex groups performing the TS was bilateral activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal areas, the inferior parietal lobes and the inferior occipital gyrus. We also found a transition from local to diffuse activation occurring with age. In young men (20 to 30 years of age) compared to women, a greater increase in the BOLD signal was found in the prefrontal areas bilaterally, the right parietal lobe and insula, and, in addition, bilateral activation in the supplementary motor area which were not observed in women. Older men and women (51 to 65 years) had no significant differences. The study of the BOLD signal correlations with age in women at the age from 20 to 40 and men from 20 to 55 years showed no significant changes. With further increase of age in both groups we found a consequent increase in the number of brain areas which are activated. The VBM analysis showed a significant decrease in the volume of gray, but not white, matter with age. No significant correlations between age-related changes in the gray matter volume (both in the whole brain and in the specific areas) and BOLD signal in this age group were detected.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Luria, A.R., Osnovy neiropsikhologii (Foundations of Neuropsychology), Moscow: Akademiya, 2013.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Akhutina, T. and Pylaeva, N., Preodolenie trudnostei ucheniya. Neiropsikhologicheskii podkhod (Overcoming Learning Difficulties: A Neuropsychological Approach), St. Petersburg: Piter, 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Miyake, A., Friedman, N.P., Emerson, M.J., et al., The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex “frontal lobe” tasks: a latent variable analysis, Cognit. Psychol., 2000, vol. 41, no. 1, p. 49.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Dove, A., Pollmann, S., Schubert, T., Wiggins, C.J., and von Cramon, D.Y., Prefrontal cortex activation in task switching: an event-related fMRI study, Cognit. Brain Res., 2000, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 103.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Eksperimental’naya psikhologiya (Experimental Psychology), Romanov, E.S., Ed., St. Petersburg: Lider, 2007.

  6. Clarys, D., Bugaiska, A., Tapia, G., and Baudouin, A., Ageing, remembering, and executive function, Memory, 2009, vol. 17, no. 2, p. 158. doi 10.1080/ 09658210802188301

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Raz, N., Gunning-Dixon, F.M., Head, D., et al., Neuroanatomical correlates of cognitive aging: evidence from structural magnetic resonance imaging, Neuropsychology, 1998, vol. 12, no. 1, p. 95.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Lemaitre, H., Goldman, A.L., Sambataro, F., et al., Normal age-related brain morphometric changes: nonuniformity across cortical thickness, surface area and gray matter volume?, Neurobiol. Aging, 2012, vol. 33, no. 3, p. 617.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Giorgio, A., Santelli, L., Tomassini, V., et al., Agerelated changes in grey and white matter structure throughout adulthood, NeuroImage, 2010, vol. 51, no. 3, p. 943. doi 10.1016/jneuroimage.2010.03.004

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Ge, Y., Grossman, R.I., Babb, J.S., et al., Age-related total gray matter and white matter changes in normal adult brain. Part I: volumetric MR imaging analysis, Am. J. Neuroradiol., 2002, vol. 23, no. 8, p. 1327.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Schulze, E.T., Geary, E.K., Susmaras, T.M., et al., Anatomical correlates of age-related working memory declines, J. Aging Res., 2011, vol. 2011, p. 606871. doi 10.4061/2011/606871

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Saveliev, S.V., Atlas mozga cheloveka (Atlas of Human Brain), Moscow: Vedi, 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Oknina, L.B., Kuznetsova, O.A., Belostotskyi, A.V., et al., Amplitude-time characteristics of the longlatency components (N1, N2, andP300) of acoustic evoked potential in healthy subjects, Hum. Physiol., 2011, vol. 37, no. 1, p. 49.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Gamezo, M.V., Petrova, E.A., and Orlova, L.M., Vozrastnaya i pedagogicheskaya psikhologiya (Age and Pedagogical Psychology), Moscow: Pedagog. O-vo. Ross., 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hjelle, L. and Ziegler, D., Teorii lichnosti (PersonalityTheories), St. Petersburg: Piter Kom, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Bizyuk, A.P., Kompendium metodov neiropsikhologicheskogo issledovaniya (A Compendium of Neuropsychological Research Methods), St. Petersburg: Rech’, 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Delis, D.C., Kaplan, E., and Kramer, J.H., Delis- Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) Examiner’s Manual, San Antonio, Tex.: The Psychological Corporation, 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Kaplan, E., Fein, D., Morris, R., and Delis, D.C., The WAISR as a Neuropsychological Instrument, New York: The Psychological Corporation, 1991.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Kuptsova, S.V., Ivanova, M.V., Petrushevsky, A.G., et al., FMRI Study of Visual Task Switching in Healthy Individuals, Zh. Vyssh. Nervn. Deyat. im. I. P. Pavlova, 2015, vol. 65, no. 1, p. 61.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Kuptsova, S.V., Ivanova, M.V., Petrushevsky, A.G., et al., Sex-related differences in task switching: An fMRI study, Hum. Physiol., 2015, vol. 41, no. 6, p. 611.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Eickhoff, S.B., Stephan, K.E., Mohlberg, H., et al., A new SPM toolbox for combining probabilistic cytoarchitectonic maps and functional imaging data, Neuro-Image, 2005, vol. 25, p. 1325.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Talairach, J. and Tournoux, P., Co-Planar Stereotaxic Atlas of the Human Brain, Thieme: Stuttgart, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Ashburner, J., VBM Tutorial, 2010. http://wwwfil. ionuclacuk/~john/misc/VBMclass10pdf.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Raz, N., Gunning-Dixon, F.M., Head, D., et al., Neuroanatomical correlates of cognitive aging: evidence from structural magnetic resonance imaging, Neuropsychology, 1998, vol. 12, no. 1, p. 95.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Gold, B.T., Kim, C., Johnson, N.F., et al., Lifelong bilingualism maintains neural efficiency for cognitive control in aging, J. Neurosci., 2013, vol. 33, no. 2, p. 387.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  26. Witt, S.T. and Stevens, M.C., Overcoming residual interference in mental set switching: neural correlates and developmental trajectory, NeuroImage, 2012, vol. 62, no. 3, p. 2055.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  27. Sherwin, B.B., Estrogen and cognitive functioning in women, Endocr. Rev., 2003, vol. 24, no. 2, p. 133.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Kratkaya meditsinskaya entsiklopediya (A Brief Medical Encyclopedia), Pokrovskii, V.I., Ed., Moscow: Med. Entsikl., 2001.

  29. Fiziologiya cheloveka (Human Physiology), Schmidt, R. and Thews, G., Eds., Moscow: Mir, 1996.

  30. Guediche, S., Holt, L.L., Laurent, P., et al., Evidence for cerebellar contributions to adaptive plasticity in speech perception, Cereb. Cortex, 2015, vol. 25, no. 7, p. 1867. doi 10.1093/cercor/bht428

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. V. Kuptsova.

Additional information

Original Russian Text © S.V. Kuptsova, M.V. Ivanova, A.G. Petrushevskiy, O.N. Fedina, L.A. Zhavoronkova, 2016, published in Fiziologiya Cheloveka, 2016, Vol. 42, No. 4, pp. 15–26.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kuptsova, S.V., Ivanova, M.V., Petrushevskiy, A.G. et al. Sex- and age-related characteristics of brain functioning during task switching (fMRI study). Hum Physiol 42, 361–370 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: