AUTHORS: Baez Lugo S, Deza-Araujo YI, Maradan C, Collette F, Lutz A, Marchant NL, Chételat G, Vuilleumier P, Klimecki O
Nature Aging, 3: 105-120, January 2023
Basic emotional functions seem well preserved in older adults. However, their reactivity to and recovery from socially negative events remain poorly characterized. To address this, we designed a ‘task–rest’ paradigm in which 182 participants from two independent experiments underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while exposed to socio-emotional videos. Experiment 1 (N = 55) validated the task in young and older participants and unveiled age-dependent effects on brain activity and connectivity that predominated in resting periods after (rather than during) negative social scenes. Crucially, emotional elicitation potentiated subsequent resting-state connectivity between default mode network and amygdala exclusively in older adults. Experiment 2 replicated these results in a large older adult cohort (N = 127) and additionally showed that emotion-driven changes in posterior default mode network–amygdala connectivity were associated with anxiety, rumination and negative thoughts. These findings uncover the neural dynamics of empathy-related functions in older adults and help understand its relationship to poor social stress recovery.