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Neuroscience - Radiology and Medical Imaging

Regional Frontal Gray Matter Volume Associated with Executive Function Capacity as a Risk Factor for Vehicle Crashes in Normal Aging Adults
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Author: Hiroyuki Sakai et al.

by Hiroyuki Sakai, Miwa Takahara, Naomi F. Honjo, Shun'ichi Doi, Norihiro Sadato, Yuji Uchiyama

Although low executive functioning is a risk factor for vehicle crashes among elderly drivers, the neural basis of individual differences in this cognitive ability remains largely unknown. Here we aimed to examine regional frontal gray matter volume associated with executive functioning in normal aging individuals, using voxel-based morphometry (VBM). To this end, 39 community-dwelling elderly volunteers who drove a car on a daily basis participated in structural magnetic resonance imaging, and completed two questionnaires concerning executive functioning and risky driving tendencies in daily living. Consequently, we found that participants with low executive function capacity were prone to risky driving. Furthermore, VBM analysis revealed that lower executive function capacity was associated with smaller gray matter volume in the supplementary motor area (SMA). Thus, the current data suggest that SMA volume is a reliable predictor of individual differences in executive function capacity as a risk factor for vehicle crashes among elderly persons. The implication of our results is that regional frontal gray matter volume might underlie the variation in driving tendencies among elderly drivers. Therefore, detailed driving behavior assessments might be able to detect early neurodegenerative changes in the frontal lobe in normal aging adults.