A growing body of literature indicates that cognitively intact older adults tend to overestimate their physical functioning (e.g., step-over ability), which may lead to fall risk. However, the neural correlates underlying this phenomenon are still unclear. We therefore investigated the neural basis of older adults’ self-overestimation of stepping-over ability. A total of 108 well-functioning community dwelling older adults (mean age = 73.9 years) performed step-over tests (SOT) in two ways: self-estimation of step-over ability and an actual step-over task. During the self-estimation task, participants observed a horizontal bar at a distance of 7 m and estimated the maximum height (EH) of successful SOT trials. The actual SOT was then performed to determine the actual maximum height (AH) of successful trials. Participants also underwent positron emission tomography with 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose at rest to assess cerebral neural activity. The SOT showed that 22.2 % of participants overestimated their step-over ability. A regression analysis adjusted for potential covariates showed that increased self-estimation error (difference between EH and AH) was correlated with lower glucose metabolism in the bilateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and left frontal pole. Only the significant correlation between self-estimation error and OFC activity persisted after correcting for multiple comparisons. For well-functioning healthy older adults, overlooking one’s own functional decline may be influenced by reduced metabolic activity in the anterior prefrontal cortex, particularly in the OFC. Our findings also suggest that functional decline in the OFC prevents older adults from updating the qualitative/quantitative values of their impaired physical abilities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geriatrics and Gerontology