Normal Aging Delays and Compromises Early Multifocal Visual Attention during Object Tracking

Viola S. Störmer, Shu-Chen Li, Hauke R. Heekeren, Ulman Lindenberger
2013 Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience  
■ Declines in selective attention are one of the sources contributing to age-related impairments in a broad range of cognitive functions. Most previous research on mechanisms underlying older adults' selection deficits has studied the deployment of visual attention to static objects and features. Here we investigate neural correlates of age-related differences in spatial attention to multiple objects as they move. We used a multiple object tracking task, in which younger and older adults were
more » ... ked to keep track of moving target objects that moved randomly in the visual field among irrelevant distractor objects. By recording the brain's electrophysiological responses during the tracking period, we were able to delineate neural processing for targets and distractors at early stages of visual processing (∼100-300 msec). Older adults showed less selective attentional modulation in the early phase of the visual P1 component (100-125 msec) than younger adults, indicating that early selection is compromised in old age. However, with a 25-msec delay relative to younger adults, older adults showed distinct processing of targets (125-150 msec), that is, a delayed yet intact attentional modulation. The magnitude of this delayed attentional modulation was related to tracking performance in older adults. The amplitude of the N1 component (175-210 msec) was smaller in older adults than in younger adults, and the target amplification effect of this component was also smaller in older relative to younger adults. Overall, these results indicate that normal aging affects the efficiency and timing of early visual processing during multiple object tracking. ■
doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00303 pmid:23016765 fatcat:g2joifsqanaj3hpk2v7vcejhna