Some theories of aging have linked age-related cognitive decline to a reduction in distinctiveness of neural processing. Observed age-related correlation increases among disparate cognitive tasks have supported the dedifferentiation hypothesis. We previously showed cross-sectional evidence for age-related correlation decreases instead, supporting an alternative disintegration hypothesis. In the current study, we extended our previous research to a longitudinal sample. We tested 135 participants (20-80 years) at two time points-baseline and 5-year follow-up-on a battery of 12 in-scanner tests, each tapping one of four reference abilities. We performed between-tasks correlations within domain (convergent) and between domain (discriminant) at both the behavioral and neural level, calculating a single measure of construct validity (convergent - discriminant). Cross-sectionally, behavioral construct validity was significantly different from chance at each time point, but longitudinal change was not significant. Analysis by median age split revealed that older adults showed higher behavioral validity, driven by higher discriminant validity (lower between-tasks correlations). Participant-level neural validity decreased over time, with convergent validity consistently greater than discriminant validity; this finding was also observed at the cross-sectional level. In addition, a disproportionate decrease in neural validity with age remained significant after controlling for demographic factors. Factors predicting longitudinal changes in global cognition (mean performance across all 12 tasks) included age, change in neural validity, education, and National Adult Reading Test (premorbid intelligence). Change in neural validity partially mediated the effect of age on change in global cognition. Our findings support the theory of age-related disintegration, linking cognitive decline to changes in neural representations over time.

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