3 years ago

The Orienting Response in Healthy Aging: Novelty P3 Indicates No General Decline but Reduced Efficacy for Fast Stimulation Rates.

Matthias Gamer, Gerhard Vossel, Stefan Berti
Automatic orienting to unexpected changes in the environment is a pre-requisite for adaptive behavior. One prominent mechanism of automatic attentional control is the Orienting Response (OR). Despite the fundamental significance of the OR in everyday life, only little is known about how the OR is affected by healthy aging. We tested this question in two age groups (19-38 and 55-72 years) and measured skin-conductance responses (SCRs) and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to novels (i.e., short environmental sounds presented only once in the experiment; 10% of the trials) compared to standard sounds (600 Hz sinusoidal tones with 200 ms duration; 90% of the trials). Novel and standard stimuli were presented in four conditions differing in the inter-stimulus interval (ISI) with a mean ISI of either 10, 3, 1, or 0.5 s (blocked presentation). In both age groups, pronounced SCRs were elicited by novels in the 10 s ISI condition, suggesting the elicitation of stable ORs. These effects were accompanied by pronounced N1 and frontal P3 amplitudes in the ERP, suggesting that automatic novelty processing and orientation of attention are effective in both age groups. Furthermore, the SCR and ERP effects declined with decreasing ISI length. In addition, differences between the two groups were observable with the fastest presentation rates (i.e., 1 and 0.5 s ISI length). The most prominent difference was a shift of the peak of the frontal positivity from around 300 to 200 ms in the 19-38 years group while in the 55-72 years group the amplitude of the frontal P3 decreased linearly with decreasing ISI length. Taken together, this pattern of results does not suggest a general decline in processing efficacy with healthy aging. At least with very rare changes (here, the novels in the 10 s ISI condition) the OR is as effective in healthy older adults as in younger adults. With faster presentation rates, however, the efficacy of the OR decreases. This seems to result in a switch from novelty to deviant processing in younger adults, but less so in the group of older adults.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01780

DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01780

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