Healthy aging delays scalp EEG sensitivity to noise in a face discrimination task
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We used a single-trial ERP approach to quantify age-related changes in the time-course of noise sensitivity. A total of 62 healthy adults, aged between 19 and 98, performed a non-speeded discrimination task between two faces. Stimulus information was controlled by parametrically manipulating the phase spectrum of these faces. Behavioral 75% correct thresholds increased with age. This result may be explained by lower signal-to-noise ratios in older brains. ERP from each subject were entered into a single-trial general linear regression model to identify variations in neural activity statistically associated with changes in image structure. The fit of the model, indexed by R(2), was computed at multiple post-stimulus time points. The time-course of the R(2) function showed significantly delayed noise sensitivity in older observers. This age effect is reliable, as demonstrated by test-retest in 24 subjects, and started about 120 ms after stimulus onset. Our analyses suggest also a qualitative change from a young to an older pattern of brain activity at around 47 ± 4 years old.
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