Simultaneity and Temporal Order Judgments Are Coded Differently and Change With Age: An Event-Related Potential Study
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Multisensory integration is required for a number of daily living tasks where the inability to accurately identify simultaneity and temporality of multisensory events results in errors in judgment leading to poor decision-making and dangerous behavior. Previously, our lab discovered that older adults exhibited impaired timing of audiovisual events, particularly when making temporal order judgments (TOJs). Simultaneity judgments (SJs), however, were preserved across the lifespan. Here, we investigate the difference between the TOJ and SJ tasks in younger and older adults to assess neural processing differences between these two tasks and across the lifespan. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were studied to determine between-task and between-age differences. Results revealed task specific differences in perceiving simultaneity and temporal order, suggesting that each task may be subserved via different neural mechanisms. Here, auditory N1 and visual P1 ERP amplitudes confirmed that unisensory processing of audiovisual stimuli did not differ between the two tasks within both younger and older groups, indicating that performance differences between tasks arise either from multisensory integration or higher-level decision-making. Compared to younger adults, older adults showed a sustained higher auditory N1 ERP amplitude response across SOAs, suggestive of broader response properties from an extended temporal binding window. Our work provides compelling evidence that different neural mechanisms subserve the SJ and TOJ tasks and that simultaneity and temporal order perception are coded differently and change with age.
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