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Functional Connectivity Correlates of Perceived Financial Exploitation in Older Adults

Gali H. Weissberger, Laura Mosqueda, Annie L. Nguyen, Jenna Axelrod, Caroline P. Nguyen, Patricia A. Boyle, Nathan Spreng, and S. Duke Han

Abstract:
Financial exploitation (FE) in old age is devastating and common; however, the neural correlates of FE are poorly understood. Previous studies of FE in older adults have implicated declines in decision making and social cognition as two risk factors for FE in later life. Here we examined whether functional connectivity among brain regions implicated in decision making and social cognition differed for those with an experience of FE vs. those without. Participants included 16 older adults without cognitive impairment who reported FE (Mean age = 70.5, 62.5% female, Mean education = 16.0 years) and 16 demographically and cognitively matched adults who denied a history of FE (Mean age = 65.1, 37.5% female, Mean education = 15.1 years). Measures of whole-brain resting-state functional connectivity in the hippocampus, insula, and medial frontal cortex were derived for each group. Compared to the non-FE group, FE was associated with greater functional connectivity between the right hippocampus and bilateral temporal regions, and less functional connectivity between the right hippocampus and the right cerebellum and bilateral lingual gyri. The FE group showed less connectivity between the right and left insula and cingulate cortex, and between the right insula and regions of the left lateral temporal gyrus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Finally, the FE group showed greater functional connectivity between the medial frontal cortex and the right lateral temporal gyrus and orbitofrontal cortex, and less functional connectivity with the right pre- and postcentral gyri. Results suggest that perceived FE in old age is associated with whole-brain functional connectivity differences involving the hippocampus, insula, and medial frontal cortex, consistent with models implicating age-associated changes in decision making and social cognition in FE.

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Special Thanks to Judith D. Tamkin

We are sincerely appreciative to Judith D. Tamkin for her gift to help establish the USC Center on Elder Mistreatment’s website. Her deep and personal commitment to eradicating elder abuse is helping to reshape our understanding of elder abuse and ultimately save innumerable older adults from abuse and neglect.