Listening to music is an enjoyable behaviour that engages multiple networks of brain regions. As such, the act of music listening may offer a way to interrogate network activity, and to examine the reconfigurations of brain networks that have been observed in healthy aging. The present study is an exploratory examination of brain network dynamics during music listening in healthy older and younger adults. Network measures were extracted and analyzed together with behavioural data using a combination of hidden Markov modelling and partial least squares. We found age- and preference-related differences in fMRI data collected during music listening in healthy younger and older adults. Both age groups showed higher occupancy (the proportion of time a network was active) in a temporal-mesolimbic network while listening to self-selected music. Activity in this network was strongly positively correlated with liking and familiarity ratings in younger adults, but less so in older adults. Additionally, older adults showed a higher degree of correlation between liking and familiarity ratings consistent with past behavioural work on age-related dedifferentiation. We conclude that, while older adults do show network and behaviour patterns consistent with dedifferentiation, activity in the temporal-mesolimbic network is relatively robust to dedifferentiation. These findings may help explain how music listening remains meaningful and rewarding in old age.
This article explores age-related differences in between-network dynamics during music listening using fMRI data collected from a sample of healthy younger and older adults. We estimated brain networks using hidden Markov modelling (HMM) and tested for age- and stimulus-related differences using partial least squares (PLS). HMM returned four functional connectivity networks, including a bilateral temporal network and a bilateral temporal-mesolimbic network. We found differences related to age and stimulus with both age groups spending more time in the temporal-mesolimbic network while listening to familiar, well-liked music. Younger adults' activity in this network was positively correlated with liking and familiarity ratings, but this was not the case for older adults, consistent with past work on age-related dedifferentiation. We conclude that activity in the temporal-mesolimbic network is robust to dedifferentiation and discuss how these conclusions and analysis tools can be of use in future work with clinical populations.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Handling Editor: Alex Fornito