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Neuropsychologia. 2001;39(3):288-301.

Effects of aging on visuospatial attention: an ERP study.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-7123, USA.


The effects of aging on visuospatial attention were investigated with event-related brain potentials (ERPs). A central arrow pointed towards (75% valid cues) or away from (25% invalid cues) the location of upcoming visual targets to which subjects made two choice discriminations. Young and older adults responded faster following valid than invalid cues. The absolute magnitude of the cueing effect was larger for older than young subjects, but cueing effects were similar between groups when estimated proportionally to overall response time. Under the present conditions, the electrophysiological manifestations of visuospatial attention were similar for young and older adults. Early ERP components following the target stimulus (P1, N1, Nd1) were slower for older than young subjects, but amplitude was similarly affected by cueing in each group. The temporal correspondence between component latencies and the observed cueing effects are consistent with theories positing that attention amplifies the sensory gain of early perceptual processes. The observation that aging slowed latency of the ipsilateral but not the contralateral P1, is consistent with age differences in interhemispheric transfer times. A broadly distributed 200-400 ms validity effect on ERP amplitude was similar between groups in timing, spatial distribution, and magnitude. The 200-400 ms attention effect appeared to be a modulation of the P3 in younger subjects, as earlier observed. However, the present study dissociated the 200-400 ms attention effects from the P3 component because the P3 did not peak until 526 ms in older subjects.

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