The Effects of Aging on Conflict Detection

Giuliana Lucci, Marika Berchicci, Donatella Spinelli, Francesco Taddei, Francesco Di Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Several cognitive changes characterize normal aging; one change regards inhibitory processing and includes both conflict monitoring and response suppression. We attempted to segregate these two aspects within a Go/No-go task, investigating three age categories. Accuracy, response times and event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. The ERP data were analyzed, and the Go and No-go trials were separated; in addition, the trials were organized in repeat trials (in which the subjects repeated the action delivered in the previous trial) and switch trials (in which the subjects produced a response opposite to the previous response). We assumed that the switch trials conveyed more conflict than the repeat trials. In general, the behavioral data and slower P3 latencies confirmed the well-known age-related speed/accuracy trade-off. The novel analyses of the repeat vs. switch trials indicated that the age-related P3 slowing was significant only for the high conflict condition; the switch-P3 amplitude increased only in the two older groups. The 'aging switch effect' on the P3 component suggests a failure in the conflict conditions and likely contributes to a generalized dysfunction. The absence of either a switch effect in the young group and the P3 slowing in middle-aged group indicate that switching was not particularly demanding for these participants. The N2 component was less sensitive to the repeat/switch manipulation; however, the subtractive waves also enhanced the age effects in this earlier time window. The topographic maps showed other notable age effects: the frontal No-go N2 was nearly undetectable in the elderly; in the identical time window, a large activity in the posterior and prefrontal scalp regions was observed. Moreover, the prefrontal activity showed a negative correlation with false alarms. These results suggest that the frontal involvement during action suppression becomes progressively dysfunctional with aging, and additional activity was required to reach a good level of accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56566
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 13 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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