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Aging Clin Exp Res. 2008 Dec;20(6):578-84.

Attention and aging.

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Dipartimento Processi Formativi, Facoltà di Scienze della Formazione, University of Catania, 95124 Catania, Italy.



Aging is a condition characterized by a general decline in many types of physical and psychological performance, but its effects on various cognitive functions are still controversial. When viewed along a time-course, several abilities clearly differ in their stability or decline with aging. Among psychological functioning in the elderly, changes in attention are not fully understood. The aim of our research was to analyze attentive performance in a sample of subjects aged 55-65, evaluating various aspects of attentive functioning with respect to the gender variable and to verify if aging affects all attentive functions equally.


The sample included 80 subjects (44 men, 36 women) of 55-65 years of age. Attentional abilities were evaluated by means of multitask computerized assessment. The test involved seven tasks assessing simple reaction times and choice reaction times, visual, visual-spatial and auditory selectivity, digit span, divided attention, resistance to distraction, and attentive shifting.


Significant differences related to gender were found in attention shifting. To test possible decline in attentive function with age, performances among two age groups (55-59 and 60-65 yrs) were compared. Significant differences were shown in simple immediate attention span, selectivity, capacity to inhibit interference of non-pertinent signals, and attentive shifting.


This study demonstrates an age-related reduction in attentive efficiency but, notably, this decline does not involve all components of attention. Subjects over 60 years of age show progressive slowing in processing of complex tasks and a reduced capacity to inhibit irrelevant stimuli.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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