Decline of prefrontal cortical-mediated executive functions but attenuated delay discounting in aged Fischer 344 × brown Norway hybrid rats

Caesar M. Hernandez, Lauren M. Vetere, Caitlin A. Orsini, Joseph A. McQuail, Andrew P. Maurer, Sara N. Burke, Barry Setlow, Jennifer L. Bizon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite the fact that prefrontal cortex (PFC) function declines with age, aged individuals generally show an enhanced ability to delay gratification, as evident by less discounting of delayed rewards in intertemporal choice tasks. The present study was designed to evaluate relationships between 2 aspects of PFC-dependent cognition (working memory and cognitive flexibility) and intertemporal choice in young (6 months) and aged (24 months) Fischer 344 × brown Norway F1 hybrid rats. Rats were also evaluated for motivation to earn rewards using a progressive ratio task. As previously reported, aged rats showed attenuated discounting of delayed rewards, impaired working memory, and impaired cognitive flexibility compared with young. Among aged rats, greater choice of delayed reward was associated with preserved working memory, impaired cognitive flexibility, and less motivation to work for food. These relationships suggest that age-related changes in PFC and incentive motivation contribute to variance in intertemporal choice within the aged population. Cognitive impairments mediated by PFC are unlikely, however, to fully account for the enhanced ability to delay gratification that accompanies aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-152
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Volume60
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Delay discounting
  • Incentive motivation
  • Intertemporal choice
  • Working memory

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