Contingency awareness, aging, and the parietal lobe

Dominic T. Cheng*, Alyssa M. Katzenelson, Monica L. Faulkner, John F. Disterhoft, John M. Power, John E. Desmond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Contingency awareness is thought to rely on an intact medial temporal lobe and also appears to be a function of age, as older subjects tend to be less aware. The current investigation used functional magnetic resonance imaging, transcranial direct current stimulation, and eyeblink classical conditioning to study brain processes related to contingency awareness as a function of age. Older adults were significantly less aware of the relationship between the tone-airpuff pairings than younger adults. Greater right parietal functional magnetic resonance imaging activation was associated with higher levels of contingency awareness for younger and older subjects. Cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation over the right parietal lobe led to lower levels of awareness in younger subjects without disrupting conditioned responses. Older adults exhibited hyperactivations in the parietal and medial temporal lobes, despite showing no conditioning deficits. These findings strongly support the idea that the parietal cortex serves as a substrate for contingency awareness and that age-related disruption of this region is sufficient to impair awareness, which may be a manifestation of some form of naturally occurring age-related neglect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Classical conditioning
  • Consciousness
  • Memory
  • fMRI
  • tDCS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Developmental Biology


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