Recent functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have reported that moment-to-moment variability in the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal is positively associated with task performance and, thus, may reflect a behaviorally sensitive signal. However, it is not clear whether estimates of resting-state and task-driven BOLD variability are differentially related to cognition, as they may be driven by distinct sources of variance in the BOLD signal. Moreover, other studies have suggested that age differences in resting-state BOLD variability may be particularly sensitive to individual differences in cardiovascular, rather than neural, factors. In this study, we tested relationships between measures of behavioral task performance and BOLD variability during both resting-state and task-driven runs of a Stroop and an animacy judgment task in a large, well-characterized sample of cognitively normal middle-aged to older adults. Resting-state BOLD variability was related to composite measures of global cognition and attentional control, but these relationships were eliminated after correction for age or cardiovascular estimates. In contrast, task-driven BOLD variability was related to attentional control measured both inside and outside the scanner, and importantly, these relationships persisted after correction for age and cardiovascular measures. Overall, these results suggest that BOLD variability is a behaviorally sensitive signal. However, resting-state and task-driven estimates of BOLD variability may differ in the degree to which they are sensitive to age-related, cardiovascular, and neural mechanisms.

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