Contralateral Delay Activity Reveals Life-Span Age Differences in Top-Down Modulation of Working Memory Contents

Myriam C. Sander, Markus Werkle-Bergner, Ulman Lindenberger
2011 Cerebral Cortex  
Estimates of working memory (WM) capacity increase in children, peak in young adulthood, and decline thereafter. Despite this symmetry, the mechanisms causing capacity increments in childhood may differ from those causing decline in old age. The contralateral delay activity (CDA) of the electroencephalogram, an event-related difference wave with a posterior scalp distribution, has been suggested as a neural marker of WM capacity. Here, we examine 22 children (10--12 years), 12 younger adults
more » ... 2 younger adults (20--25 years), and 22 older adults (70--75 years) in a cued change detection paradigm. Load levels and presentation times were varied within subjects. Behaviorally, we observed the expected life-span peak in younger adults and better performance with longer presentation times. With short presentation times, task load increased CDA amplitude and decreased behavioral performance in younger adults. Both effects were less pronounced in older adults. Children showed a unique pattern: Their behavioral load effects were as strong as those of younger adults, but their CDA was unaffected by load. With long presentation times, task load modulated the CDA in children and older adults but not in younger adults. These findings suggest that age-related differences in CDA reflect changes in the top-down control over WM representations.
doi:10.1093/cercor/bhr076 pmid:21527784 fatcat:wqin5a7axzfktf6aqzh6ikiztq