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Age-associated modulations of cerebral oscillatory patterns related to attention control.
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Publication types: Journal Article Publication Status: ppublish
Visual attention depends on bottom-up sensory activation and top-down attentional guidance. Although aging is known to affect sensory processing, its impact on the top-down control of attention remains a matter of debate. We investigated age-related modulations of brain oscillatory activity during visual attention using a variant of the attention network test (ANT) in 20 young and 28 elderly adults. We examined the EEG oscillatory responses to warning and target signals, and explored the correlates of temporal and spatial orienting as well as conflict resolution at target presentation. Time-frequency analysis was performed between 4 and 30Hz, and the relationship between behavioral and brain oscillatory responses was analyzed. Whereas temporal cueing and conflict had similar reaction time effects in both age groups, spatial cueing was more beneficial to older than younger subjects. In the absence of cue, posterior alpha activation was drastically reduced in older adults, pointing to an age-related decline in anticipatory attention. Following both cues and targets, older adults displayed pronounced motor-related activation in the low beta frequency range at the expense of attention-related posterior alpha activation prominent in younger adults. These findings support the recruitment of alternative motor-related circuits in the elderly, in line with the dedifferentiation hypothesis. Furthermore, older adults showed reduced midparietal alpha inhibition induced by temporal orienting as well as decreased posterior alpha activation associated with both spatial orienting and conflict resolution. Altogether, the results are consistent with an overall reduction of task-related alpha activity in the elderly, and provide functional evidence that younger and older adults engage distinct brain circuits at different oscillatory frequencies during attentional functions.
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