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OS_26. Skill acquisition and Attention in aging

Saturday, October 01st,   2011 [16:20 - 17:20]


OS_26.1 - Aging and attention capture: Electrophysiological evidence for preserved attentional control with advanced age

Lien, M. 1 , Gemperle, A. 2 & Ruthruff, E. 3

1 Department of Psychology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
2 School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
3 Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

The present study examined whether people become more susceptible to capture by salient objects as they age. Participants searched a target display for a letter in a specific color and indicated its identity. In Experiment 1, this target display was preceded by a non-informative cue display containing one target-color box, one ignored-color box, and two white boxes. On half of the trials, this cue display also contained a salient-but-irrelevant abrupt onset. To assess capture by the target-color cue, we used the N2pc component of the event-related potential, thought to reflect attentional allocation to the left or right visual field. The target-color box in the cue display produced a substantial N2pc effect for younger adults and, most importantly, this effect was not diminished by the presence of an abrupt onset. Therefore, the abrupt onset was unable to capture attention away from the target-color cue. Critically, older adults demonstrated the same resistance to capture by the abrupt onset. Experiment 2 extended these findings to irrelevant color singleton cues. Thus, we argue that the ability to attend to relevant stimuli and resist capture by salient-but-irrelevant stimuli is preserved with advancing age.

OS_26.2 - Can younger and older adults improve task coordination skills after extended dual-task practice?

Strobach, T. 1 , Frensch, P. A. 2 , Müller, H. 1 & Schubert, T. 1, 2

1 Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany
2 Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany

It has been shown for younger adults that practicing two simultaneously presented tasks leads to improved dual-task performance. One mechanism for this improvement is the acquisition of task coordination skills for optimized control of two concurrent task streams. In particular, these skills are acquired during dual-task practice but not during practice of two separate tasks in single-task situations. So far, however, it is unclear whether older adults are also able to improve their dual-task performance and whether the acquisition of task coordination skills during dual-task practice denotes one mechanism for this improvement in this aging group. Therefore, we investigated the dual-task performance after dual-task practice or single-task practice in younger and older adults. A larger improvement of dual-task performance after dual-task contrasted with single-task practice indicates the acquisition of task coordination skills. Our data are consistent with this assumption in groups of younger adults as well as older adults. Thus, both aging groups improve their dual-task performance during practice and this improvement is related to the acquisition of task coordination skills. Further, our findings indicate that the amount of the practice-related improvement of dual-task performance due these acquired skills is similar in both groups.

OS_26.3 - It takes two-skilled recognition of objects engages lateral areas in both hemispheres

Bilalic, M.

Tübingen University

Our object recognition abilities are fine-tuned to perfection. Left temporal and lateral areas along the dorsal, action related stream, as well as left infero-temporal areas along the ventral, object related stream are engaged in object recognition. Here we show that expertise modulates the activity of dorsal areas in the recognition of man-made objects. Expert chess players were faster than chess novices in identifying chess objects and their functional relations. Experts' advantage was domain-specific as there were no differences between groups in a control task featuring geometrical shapes. The pattern of eye movements supported the notion that experts' extensive knowledge about domain objects and their functions enabled superior recognition even when experts were not directly fixating the objects of interest. fMRI related exclusively the areas along the dorsal stream to chess specific object recognition. Besides the commonly involved left temporal and parietal lateral brain areas, we found that only in experts homologous areas on the right hemisphere were also engaged in chess specific object recognition. Based on these results, we discuss whether skilled object recognition does not only involve a more efficient version of the processes found in non-skilled recognition, but also qualitatively different cognitive processes which engage additional brain areas.

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