AGE RELATED CHARACTERISTICS OF AUDITORY EVENT RELATED POTENTIALS
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The goal of this study was to evaluate age-dependent changes of several components of auditory event related potentials (ERPs), related to sensory information processing. Changes in the central nervous system and the theoretical background of cognitive processes related to aging are briefly described. In the experiment participants (age span: 19-68 yrs, n=65) took part in two kinds (easy and difficult) of auditory sensory discrimination (oddball) tasks and were divided into 5 age-groups (I: 18-29 yrs, II: 30-39 yrs, II: 40-49 yrs, IV: 50-59 yrs, V: 60-70 yrs). In addition to electrophysiological recordings, several tests were performed, whereby the psychological state of the participants was assessed. No difference was found between the age-groups with respect to reaction times in the oddball task and short term memory measured by the Watkins test. In the older groups there was a decrease in attentional and Raven APM performance, an increase in the number of perseverations in the letter-fluency test and of false alarms in the oddball task. The latency of N2b and P3b components increased with aging, but no effect was found regarding amplitudes. The latency of the P3b corresponded to task difficulty; while in the easy task there was a monotone latency increase with aging, the difficult task was accompanied by an accelerated increase. The scalp distribution of the P2 and N2b ERP components was affected by age; for the P2 there was a parietal dominance for young people and a frontal dominance for the elderly. N2b was found to have an amplitude maximum at frontal scalp sites in the youngest group, while at central sites the oldest group. The distribution of the N1 and P3b components showed no age effect. According to our results, age-related effects were more apparent on longer latency ERP components. Task difficulty seems to be an important factor in this difference. In less complex situations aging effect remains undetected, while in more complex tasks it develops to a greater extent.
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