Functional brain networks have preserved architectures in rest and task; nevertheless, previous work consistently demonstrated task-related brain functional reorganization. Efficient rest-to-task functional network reconfiguration is associated with better cognition in young adults. However, aging and cognitive load effects, as well as contributions of intra- and internetwork reconfiguration, remain unclear. We assessed age-related and load-dependent effects on global and network-specific functional reconfiguration between rest and a spatial working memory (SWM) task in young and older adults, then investigated associations between functional reconfiguration and SWM across loads and age groups. Overall, global and network-level functional reconfiguration between rest and task increased with age and load. Importantly, more efficient functional reconfiguration associated with better performance across age groups. However, older adults relied more on internetwork reconfiguration of higher cognitive and task-relevant networks. These reflect the consistent importance of efficient network updating despite recruitment of additional functional networks to offset reduction in neural resources and a change in brain functional topology in older adults. Our findings generalize the association between efficient functional reconfiguration and cognition to aging and demonstrate distinct brain functional reconfiguration patterns associated with SWM in aging, highlighting the importance of combining rest and task measures to study aging cognition.

Brain networks identified by functional connectivity (FC) have preserved architectures from rest to task and across task demands. Higher similarity, implying more efficient network reconfiguration, was associated with better cognition and task performance in young adults. To examine how it may be influenced by aging, we compared whole-brain and network-level FC similarities between resting-state and spatial working memory fMRI in young and older adults. At whole-brain level and higher order cognitive networks, older adults evidenced less efficient network reconfiguration from rest to task than young adults. Importantly, more efficient reconfiguration was associated with better accuracy. This relationship relied more on internetwork connections in older adults. Despite reduced neural resources compared to young, maintaining efficient network updating still contributes to better cognition at older age.

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Competing Interests

Competing Interests: The authors declare no conflict of interests.

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Joint first authors

Handling Editor: James Shine

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