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J Neurosci. 2011 Aug 31;31(35):12461-70. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1149-11.2011.

Age-related changes in orienting attention in time.

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Departments of Neurology and Physiology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94158, USA.


Temporal cues guide attentional resources toward relevant points in time, resulting in optimized behavioral performance. Although deficits in aspects of attention have been documented in older adults, it remains unknown whether the critical ability to orient attention in time is affected by normal aging. To address this, younger and older adults participated in a temporally cued target-response experiment while electroencephalographic data were recorded. Three conditions (one detection and two discrimination tasks) were used to manipulate task complexity. Response times show that younger adults, but not older adults, used temporal cues to enhance performance regardless of task complexity. Similarly, alpha band activity (8-12 Hz) and the contingent negative variation preceding targets indicated that only younger adults engaged prestimulus, anticipatory neural mechanisms associated with temporal cues. Overall, these results provide novel evidence that older adults do not use temporal cues to orient attention in time and support an expectation deficit in normal aging.

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