To examine age-related effects on high-level consciously controlled and low-level automatically controlled inhibitory processes, the Simon task was combined with the masked prime task in a hybrid procedure. Young and older adults responded to the identity of targets (left/right key-press to left-/right-pointing arrows) that appeared on the left/right of the screen and were preceded by left-/right-pointing backward-masked arrow primes at fixation. Responses were faster and more accurate when the target was congruent with its location than incongruent (Simon effect), and when the target was incompatible with the prime than compatible (negative compatibility effect; NCE). The Simon effect was disproportionately larger, and the NCE disproportionately delayed, in older adults compared to young adults, indicating both high- and low-level inhibitory control deficits with aging. Moreover, the two effects were additive in young adults, but interactive in older adults, providing support for the dedifferentiation hypothesis of aging. Specifically, older adults’ prime-related inhibitory control appeared improved on incongruent relative to congruent trials, suggesting that impaired automatic control was substituted by high-level, non-automatic processes.
aging; inhibition; cognitive control; masked priming; negative compatibility effect; Simon effect; dedifferentiation
In two experiments, we compared level of activation and temporal overlap accounts of compatibility effects in the Simon task by reducing the discriminability of spatial and non-spatial features of a target location word. Participants made keypress responses to the non-spatial or spatial feature of centrally-presented location words. The discriminability of the spatial feature of the word (Experiment 1), or of both the spatial and non-spatial feature (Experiment 2), was manipulated. When the spatial feature of the word was task-irrelevant, lowering the discriminability of this feature reduced the compatibility effect. The compatibility effect was restored when the discriminability of both the task-relevant and task-irrelevant features were reduced together. Results provide further evidence for the temporal overlap account of compatibility effects. Furthermore, compatibility effects when the spatial information was task-relevant and those when the spatial information was task-irrelevant were moderately correlated with each other, suggesting a common underlying mechanism in both versions.
Simon effect; stimulus-response compatibility; temporal overlap; automatic activation
Previous investigations of adult age differences in visual search suggest that an age-related decline may exist in attentional processes dependent on the observer's knowledge of task-relevant features (top–down processing). The present experiments were conducted to examine age-related changes in top–down attentional guidance during a highly efficient form of search, singleton detection. In Experiment 1 reaction times to detect targets were lower when target features were constant (feature condition) than when target features were allowed to vary between trials (mixed condition), and this reaction time benefit was similar for younger and older adults. Experiments 2 and 3 investigated possible interactions between top–down and bottom–up (stimulus-driven) processes. Experiment 2 demonstrated that search times for both age groups could be improved when targets varied on an additional feature from distractors (double-feature condition) but only when top–down control was available (feature search). In Experiment 3, the availability of top–down guidance enabled both younger and older adults to override the distracting effects of a noninformative spatial location cue. These findings indicate that top–down attentional control mechanisms interact with bottom–up processes to guide search for targets, and that in the context of singleton detection these mechanisms of top–down control are preserved for older adults.
The role of body orientation in the orienting and allocation of social attention was examined using an adapted Simon paradigm. Participants categorized the facial expression of forward facing, computer-generated human figures by pressing one of two response keys, each located left or right of the observers' body midline, while the orientation of the stimulus figure's body (trunk, arms, and legs), which was the task-irrelevant feature of interest, was manipulated (oriented toward the left or right visual hemifield) with respect to the spatial location of the required response. We found that when the orientation of the body was compatible with the required response location, responses were slower relative to when body orientation was incompatible with the response location. In line with a model put forward by Hietanen (1999), this reverse compatibility effect suggests that body orientation is automatically processed into a directional spatial code, but that this code is based on an integration of head and body orientation within an allocentric-based frame of reference. Moreover, we argue that this code may be derived from the motion information implied in the image of a figure when head and body orientation are incongruent. Our results have implications for understanding the nature of the information that affects the allocation of attention for social orienting.
social attention; spatial attention; Simon task; head-body orientation; implied motion
Responses are faster when the side of stimulus and response correspond than when they do not correspond, even if stimulus location is irrelevant to the task at hand: the correspondence, spatial compatibility effect, or Simon effect. Generally, it is assumed that an automatically generated spatial code is responsible for this effect, but the precise mechanism underlying the formation of this code is still under dispute. Two major alternatives have been proposed: the referential-coding account, which can be subdivided into a static version and an attention-centered version, and the attention-shift account. These accounts hold clear-cut predictions for attentional cuing experiments. The former would assume a Simon effect irrespective of attentional cuing in its static version, whereas the attention-centered version of the referential-coding account and the attention-shift account would predict a decreased Simon effect on validly as opposed to invalidly cued trials. However, results from previous studies are equivocal to the effects of attentional cuing on the Simon effect. We argue here that attentional cueing reliably modulates the Simon effect if some crucial experimental conditions, mostly relevant for optimizing attentional allocation, are met. Furthermore, we propose that the Simon effect may be better understood within the perspective of supra-modal spatial attention, thereby providing an explanation for observed discrepancies in the literature.
Temporal cues guide attentional resources toward relevant points in time, resulting in optimized behavioral performance. Although deficits in aspects of attention have been documented in older adults, it remains unknown whether the critical ability to orient attention in time is affected by normal aging. To address this, younger and older adults participated in a temporally cued target-response experiment while electroencephalographic (EEG) data were recorded. Three conditions (one detection and two discrimination tasks) were used to manipulate task complexity. Response times show that younger adults, but not older adults, utilized temporal cues to enhance performance regardless of task complexity. Similarly, alpha band activity (8-12 Hz) and the contingent negative variation (CNV) preceding targets indicated that only younger adults engaged pre-stimulus, anticipatory neural mechanisms associated with temporal cues. Overall, these results provide novel evidence that older adults do not utilize temporal cues to orient attention in time and support an expectation deficit in normal aging.
aging; alpha band; CNV; expectation; temporal attention
Automatic processing of irrelevant stimulus dimensions has been demonstrated in a variety of tasks. Previous studies have shown that conflict between relevant and irrelevant dimensions can be reduced when a feature of the irrelevant dimension is repeated. The specific level at which the automatic process is suppressed (e.g., perceptual repetition, response repetition), however, is less understood. In the current experiment we used the numerical Stroop paradigm, in which the processing of irrelevant numerical values of 2 digits interferes with the processing of their physical size, to pinpoint the precise level of the suppression. Using a sequential analysis, we dissociated perceptual repetition from response repetition of the relevant and irrelevant dimension. Our analyses of reaction times, error rates, and diffusion modeling revealed that the congruity effect is significantly reduced or even absent when the response sequence of the irrelevant dimension, rather than the numerical value or the physical size, is repeated. These results suggest that automatic activation of the irrelevant dimension is suppressed at the response level. The current results shed light on the level of interaction between numerical magnitude and physical size as well as the effect of variability of responses and stimuli on automatic processing.
automaticity; congruity effect; diffusion modeling; executive control; inhibition
With the present study we investigated cue-induced preparation in a Simon task and measured electroencephalogram and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data in two within-subjects sessions. Cues informed either about the upcoming (1) spatial stimulus-response compatibility (rule cues), or (2) the stimulus location (position cues), or (3) were non-informative. Only rule cues allowed anticipating the upcoming compatibility condition. Position cues allowed anticipation of the upcoming location of the Simon stimulus but not its compatibility condition. Rule cues elicited fastest and most accurate performance for both compatible and incompatible trials. The contingent negative variation (CNV) in the event-related potential (ERP) of the cue-target interval is an index of anticipatory preparation and was magnified after rule cues. The N2 in the post-target ERP as a measure of online action control was reduced in Simon trials after rule cues. Although compatible trials were faster than incompatible trials in all cue conditions only non-informative cues revealed a compatibility effect in additional indicators of Simon task conflict like accuracy and the N2. We thus conclude that rule cues induced anticipatory re-coding of the Simon task that did not involve cognitive conflict anymore. fMRI revealed that rule cues yielded more activation of the left rostral, dorsal, and ventral prefrontal cortex as well as the pre-SMA as compared to POS and NON-cues. Pre-SMA and ventrolateral prefrontal activation after rule cues correlated with the effective use of rule cues in behavioral performance. Position cues induced a smaller CNV effect and exhibited less prefrontal and pre-SMA contributions in fMRI. Our data point to the importance to disentangle different anticipatory adjustments that might also include the prevention of upcoming conflict via task re-coding.
cognitive conflict; cueing; EEG; fMRI; pre-SMA; Simon task; anticipation; cognitive control
We investigated the influence of hand posture in handedness recognition, while varying the spatial correspondence between stimulus and response in a modified Simon task. Drawings of the left and right hands were displayed either in a back or palm view while participants discriminated stimulus handedness by pressing either a left or right key with their hands resting either in a prone or supine posture. As a control, subjects performed a regular Simon task using simple geometric shapes as stimuli. Results showed that when hands were in a prone posture, the spatially corresponding trials (i.e., stimulus and response located on the same side) were faster than the non-corresponding trials (i.e., stimulus and response on opposite sides). In contrast, for the supine posture, there was no difference between corresponding and non-corresponding trials. Control experiments with the regular Simon task showed that the posture of the responding hand had no influence on performance. When the stimulus is the drawing of a hand, however, the posture of the responding hand affects the spatial correspondence effect because response location is coded based on multiple reference points, including the body of the hand.
handedness recognition; Simon effect; hand posture; motor imagery
Salient visual stimuli capture attention and trigger an eye-movement toward its location reflexively, regardless of an observer’s intentions. Here we aim to investigate the effect of aging (1) on the extent to which salient yet task-irrelevant stimuli capture saccades, and (2) on the ability to selectively suppress such oculomotor responses. Young and older adults were asked to direct their eyes to a target appearing in a stimulus array. Analysis of overall performance shows that saccades to the target object were disrupted by the appearance of a task-irrelevant abrupt-onset distractor when the location of this distractor did not coincide with that of the target object. Conditional capture function analyses revealed that, compared to young adults, older adults were more susceptible to oculomotor capture, and exhibited deficient selective suppression of the responses captured by task-irrelevant distractors. These effects were uncorrelated, suggesting two independent sources off age-related decline. Thus, with advancing age, salient visual distractors become more distracting; in part because they trigger reflexive eye-movements more potently; in part because of failing top-down control over such reflexes. The fact that these process-specific age effects remained concealed in overall oculomotor performance analyses emphasizes the utility of looking beyond the surface; indeed, there may be more than meets the eye.
oculomotor capture; inhibitory control; saccades; aging; distributional analysis
Our ability to focus attention on task-relevant stimuli and ignore irrelevant distractions is reflected by differential enhancement and suppression of neural activity in sensory cortices. Previous research has shown that older adults exhibit a deficit in suppressing task-irrelevant information, the magnitude of which is associated with a decline in working memory performance. However, it remains unclear if a failure to suppress is a reflection of an inability of older adults to rapidly assess the relevance of information upon stimulus presentation when they are not aware of the relevance beforehand. To address this, we recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) in healthy older participants (aged 60–80 years) while they performed two different versions of a selective face/scene working memory task, both with and without prior knowledge as to when relevant and irrelevant stimuli would appear. Each trial contained two faces and two scenes presented sequentially followed by a nine second delay and a probe stimulus. Participants were given the following instructions: remember faces (ignore scenes), remember scenes (ignore faces), remember the xth and yth stimuli (where x and y could be 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th), or passively view all stimuli. Working memory performance remained consistent regardless of task instructions. Enhanced neural activity was observed at posterior electrodes to attended stimuli, while neural responses that reflected the suppression of irrelevant stimuli was absent for both tasks. The lack of significant suppression at early stages of visual processing was revealed by P1 amplitude and N1 latency modulation indices. These results reveal that prior knowledge of stimulus relevance does not modify early neural processing during stimulus encoding and does not improve working memory performance in older adults. These results suggest that the inability to suppress irrelevant information early in the visual processing stream by older adults is related to mechanisms specific to top-down suppression.
suppression; EEG; aging; working memory; selective attention
Older adults’ difficulties in performing two tasks concurrently have been well documented (Kramer & Madden, 2008). It has been observed that the age-related differences in dual-task performance are larger when the two tasks require similar motor responses (Hartley, 2001) and that in some conditions older adults also show greater susceptibility than younger adults to input interference (Hein & Schubert, 2004). The authors recently observed that even when the two tasks require motor responses, both older and younger adults can learn to perform a visual discrimination task and an auditory discrimination task faster and more accurately (Bherer et al., 2005). In the present study, the authors extended this finding to a dual-task condition that involves two visual tasks requiring two motor responses. Older and younger adults completed a dual-task training program in which continuous individualized adaptive feedback was provided to enhance performance. The results indicate that, even with similar motor responses and two visual stimuli, both older and younger adults showed substantial gains in performance after training and that the improvement generalized to new task combinations involving new stimuli. These results suggest that dual-task skills can be substantially improved in older adults and that cognitive plasticity in attentional control is still possible in old age.
Compatibility effects in conflict paradigms are reduced following incompatible trials, and this effect is referred to as conflict adaptation. A perplexing pattern exists, however, with conflict-driven adaptation emerging in several paradigms (e.g., Stroop, Simon) but not consistently in the Eriksen and Eriksen (1974) flanker task. The present experiments address the seemingly elusive presence of conflict adaptation in this task. Experiment 1 shows that a negative-priming-like slowing may be masking conflict adaptation in the flanker task. In Experiment 2, conflict adaptation was revealed when a larger stimulus set designed to reduce negative priming was implemented. Taken together, the findings indicate that a consideration of processes opposing conflict adaptation in the flanker task may help reconcile prior findings.
In this study we examined (a) whether verbal self-instructions can enhance task-switching performance in younger and older adults, and (b) whether verbal self-instruction benefits on task switching are smaller when memory demands on keeping track of the task sequence are reduced by spatial task cueing. Task-switching ability was measured as the difference in performance between single-task and mixed-task blocks (termed mixing costs), in which participants switched between two tasks A and B. One group of participants performed the switching tasks with spatial task cues, indicating which of the two tasks has to be performed, thereby reducing demands on the endogenous control of serial task order (low task-sequencing load). The other group switched between tasks without external task cues (high task-sequencing load). To investigate the influence of verbal self-instructions on task switching, participants either named aloud the next task during task preparation (task-naming condition) or they did not verbalize (control condition). Results indicated that age differences in verbalization benefits on mixing costs depend on early learning whereby benefits were generally larger when subjects had some prior practice in task switching alone, and that verbalization benefits did not differ between the two task-sequencing load conditions. These findings suggest that task naming is a suitable cognitive intervention for enhancing the control of task switching in younger and older adults, even if memory load is reduced, and that for the efficient application of this strategy it first has to be coordinated with task switching, which is easier when task switching is already practiced.
aging; task switching; verbalization benefits; working-memory load; task-sequencing function; endogenous task control
It has been shown that dual-task training leads to significant improvement in dual-task performance in younger and older adults. However, the extent to which training benefits to untrained tasks requires further investigation. The present study assessed (a) whether dual-task training leads to cross-modality transfer in untrained tasks using new stimuli and/or motor responses modalities, (b) whether transfer effects are related to improved ability to prepare and maintain multiple task-set and/or enhanced response coordination, (c) whether there are age-related differences in transfer effects. Twenty-three younger and 23 older adults were randomly assigned to dual-task training or control conditions. All participants were assessed before and after training on three dual-task transfer conditions; (1) stimulus modality transfer (2) response modality transfer (3) stimulus and response modalities transfer task. Training group showed larger improvement than the control group in the three transfer dual-task conditions, which suggests that training leads to more than specific learning of stimuli/response associations. Attentional costs analyses showed that training led to improved dual-task cost, only in conditions that involved new stimuli or response modalities, but not both. Moreover, training did not lead to a reduced task-set cost in the transfer conditions, which suggests some limitations in transfer effects that can be expected. Overall, the present study supports the notion that cognitive plasticity for attentional control is preserved in late adulthood.
cognitive plasticity; cognitive training; transfer; divided attention; executive function; aging
Conflicts in spatial stimulus–response tasks occur when the task-relevant feature of a stimulus implies a response toward a certain location which does not match the location of stimulus presentation. This conflict leads to increased error rates and longer reaction times, which has been termed Simon effect. A model of dual route processing (automatic and intentional) of stimulus features has been proposed, predicting response conflicts if the two routes are incongruent. Although there is evidence that the prefrontal cortex, notably the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), plays a crucial role in conflict processing, the neuronal basis of dual route architecture is still unknown. In this study, we pursue a novel approach using positron emission tomography (PET) to identify relevant brain areas in a rat model of an auditory Simon task, a neuropsychological interference task, which is commonly used to study conflict processing in humans. For combination with PET we used the metabolic tracer [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose, which accumulates in metabolically active brain cells during the behavioral task. Brain areas involved in conflict processing are supposed to be activated when automatic and intentional route processing lead to different responses (dual route model). Analysis of PET data revealed specific activation patterns for different task settings applicable to the dual route model as established for response conflict processing. The rat motor cortex (M1) may be part of the automatic route or involved in its facilitation, while premotor (M2), prelimbic, and ACC seemed to be essential for inhibiting the incorrect, automatic response, indicating conflict monitoring functions. Our findings and the remarkable similarities to the pattern of activated regions reported during conflict processing in humans demonstrate that our rodent model opens novel opportunities to investigate the anatomical basis of conflict processing and dual route architecture.
prefrontal cortex; rodent model; cognitive conflict; Simon task
To assess whether age-related differences in suppressing nontarget material impact subsequent performance, the authors initially asked younger and older adults to perform a go/nogo task with colored letters used as conflicting go/nogo stimuli and 2 colored numbers as low-conflict nogo stimuli. Next, participants performed another go/nogo task. A previous number was reused as a nogo stimulus and the other as a go stimulus, with new numbers serving as a baseline. In a 1st block of trials, younger adults showed slower responses to previous nogo/now-go numbers than to new go numbers, an effect not shown by older adults. Alternative accounts of these differential transfer costs are discussed.
PMID: 20718536 CAMSID: cams2238
normal aging; suppression; transfer cost; cognitive interference; go/nogo
Temporal and strategic factors that might influence the transformation of verbal task rules into functional stimulus–response associations were investigated in three experiments. In a dual task paradigm of the ABBA type participants were presented new S–R instructions for the A-task at the beginning of each trial. On varying proportions of trials No-go signals rendered the instructed A-task mappings irrelevant before instruction implementation was assessed during performance of an unrelated B-task. Our results indicate that participants refrain from implementing the mappings during instruction presentation when No-go signals appear frequently and late (Exp. 2), and that they can interrupt implementing instructed S–R mappings when frequent No-go signals appear early enough during implementation (Exp. 3). When No-go signals are rare and late, however (Exp. 1), the instructed stimulus features always activate their associated responses during performance of the embedded B-task in an automatic manner. Together, these findings suggest that participants strategically control whether or not they implement verbal instructions. Once implemented, however, instructed S–R associations influence behaviour even when the instructed mappings are no longer task relevant.
The color word Stroop effect in bilinguals is commonly half the magnitude when the written and naming languages are different (between) than when they are the same (within). This between-within language Stroop difference (BWLS) is likened to a response set effect, with greater response conflict for response relevant than irrelevant words. The nature of the BWLS was examined using a bilingual Stroop task. In a given block (Experiment 1), color congruent and incongruent words appeared in the naming language or not (single), or randomly in both languages (mixed). The BWLS effect was present for both balanced and unbalanced bilinguals, but only partially supported a response set explanation. As expected, color incongruent trials during single language blocks, lead to slower response times within than between languages. However, color congruent trials during mixed language blocks led to slower times between than within languages, indicating that response-irrelevant stimuli interfered with processing. In Experiment 2, to investigate the neural timing of the BWLS effect, event related potentials were recorded while balanced bilinguals named silently within and between languages. Replicating monolingual findings, an N450 effect was observed with larger negative amplitude for color incongruent than congruent trials (350–550 ms post-stimulus onset). This effect was equivalent within and between languages, indicating that color words from both languages created response conflict, contrary to a strict response set effect. A sustained negativity (SN) followed with larger amplitude for color incongruent than congruent trials, resolving earlier for between than within language Stroop. This effect shared timing (550–700 ms), but not morphology or scalp distribution with the commonly reported sustained potential. Finally, larger negative amplitude (200–350 ms) was observed between than within languages independent of color congruence. This negativity, likened to a no-go N2, may reflect processes of inhibitory control that facilitate the resolution of conflict at the SN, while the N450 reflects parallel processing of distracter words, independent of response set (or language). In sum, the BWLS reflects brain activity over time with contributions from language and color conflict at different points.
bilingual; Stroop; response conflict; between language interference; N450; N2; event related potential; language dominance
The effect of aging on interval timing was examined using a choice time production task, which required participants to choose a key response based on the location of the stimulus, but to delay responding until after a learned time interval. Experiment 1 varied attentional demands of the response choice portion of the task by varying difficulty of stimulus-response mapping. Choice difficulty affected temporal accuracy equally in both age groups, but older participants’ response latencies were more variable under more difficult response choice conditions. Experiment 2 tested the contribution of long-term memory to differences in choice time production between age groups over 3 days of testing. Direction of errors in time production between the two age groups diverged over the 3 sessions, but variability did not differ. Results from each experiment separately show age-related changes to attention and memory in temporal processing using different measures and manipulations in the same task.
Inhibition of Return (IOR) occurs when a target is preceded by an irrelevant stimulus (cue) at the same location: Target detection is slowed, relative to uncued locations. In the present study, we used relatively complex displays to examine the effect of repetition of nonspatial attributes. For both color and shape, attribute repetition produced a robust inhibitory effect that followed a time course similar to that for location-based IOR. However, the effect only occurred when the target shared both the feature (i.e., color or shape) and location with the cue; this constraint implicates a primary role for location. The data are consistent with the idea that the system integrates consecutive stimuli into a single object file when attributes repeat, hindering detection of the second stimulus. The results are also consistent with an interpretation of IOR as a form of habituation, with greater habituation occurring with increasing featural overlap of a repeated stimulus. Critically, both of these interpretations bring the IOR effect within more general approaches to attention and perception, rather than requiring a specialized process with a limited function. In this view, there is no process specifically designed to inhibit return, suggesting that “IOR” may be the wrong framing of inhibitory repetition effects. Instead, we suggest that repetition of stimulus properties can interfere with the ability to focus attention on the aspects of a complex display that are needed to detect the occurrence of the target stimulus; this is a failure of activation, not an inhibition of processing.
Inhibition of Return; Non-spatial attributes; Location; Habituation; Object-file
In what form are multiple spatial locations represented in working memory? The current study revealed that people often maintain the configural properties (inter-item relationships) of visuospatial stimuli even when this information is explicitly task-irrelevant. However, results also indicate that the voluntary allocation of selective attention prior to stimulus presentation, as well as feature-based perceptual segregation of relevant from irrelevant stimuli, can eliminate the influences of stimulus configuration on location change detection performance. In contrast, voluntary attention cued to the relevant target location following presentation of the stimulus array failed to attenuate these influences. Thus, whereas voluntary selective attention can isolate or prevent the encoding of irrelevant stimulus locations and configural properties, people, perhaps due to limitations in attentional resources, reliably fail to isolate or suppress configural representations that have been encoded into working memory.
Predictions concerning development, interrelations, and possible independence of working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility were tested in 325 participants (roughly 30 per age from 4 to 13 years and young adults; 50% female). All were tested on the same computerized battery, designed to manipulate memory and inhibition independently and together, in steady state (single-task blocks) and during task-switching, and to be appropriate over the lifespan and for neuroimaging (fMRI). This is one of the first studies, in children or adults, to explore: (a) how memory requirements interact with spatial compatibility and (b) spatial incompatibility effects both with stimulus-specific rules (Simon task) and with higher-level, conceptual rules. Even the youngest children could hold information in mind, inhibit a dominant response, and combine those as long as the inhibition required was steady-state and the rules remained constant. Cognitive flexibility (switching between rules), even with memory demands minimized, showed a longer developmental progression, with 13-year-olds still not at adult levels. Effects elicited only in Mixed blocks with adults were found in young children even in single-task blocks; while young children could exercise inhibition in steady state it exacted a cost not seen in adults, who (unlike young children) seemed to re-set their default response when inhibition of the same tendency was required throughout a block. The costs associated with manipulations of inhibition were greater in young children while the costs associated with increasing memory demands were greater in adults. Effects seen only in RT in adults were seen primarily in accuracy in young children. Adults slowed down on difficult trials to preserve accuracy; but the youngest children were impulsive; their RT remained more constant but at an accuracy cost on difficult trials. Contrary to our predictions of independence between memory and inhibition, when matched for difficulty RT correlations between these were as high as 0.8, although accuracy correlations were less than half that. Spatial incompatibility effects and global and local switch costs were evident in children and adults, differing only in size. Other effects (e.g., asymmetric switch costs and the interaction of switching rules and switching response-sites) differed fundamentally over age.
Task switching; Inhibition; Working memory; Simon effect; Asymmetric switch costs; Global and local switch costs; Stimulus-response compatibility; Development; Children; Frontal lobe
The primate superior colliculus (SC) has long been known to be involved in saccade generation. However, SC neurons also exhibit fixation-related and smooth-pursuit-related activity. A parsimonious explanation for these seemingly disparate findings is that the SC contains a map of behaviorally relevant goal locations, rather than just a motor map for saccades and fixation. This explanation predicts that SC activity should reflect the behavioral goal, even when the behavioral response is not fixation or saccades, and even if the goal does not correspond to a visual stimulus. We tested this prediction by employing a tracking task that dissociates the stimulus and goal locations. In this task, monkeys tracked the invisible midpoint between two peripheral bars, such that the visual stimuli were peripheral but the goal was foveal/parafoveal. We recorded from SC neurons representing peripheral locations associated with the stimulus or central locations associated with the goal. Most neurons with peripheral response fields did not respond differently during tracking than during passive viewing of the stimulus under fixation; most neurons with central response fields responded more during tracking than during fixation, despite the lack of a visual stimulus. Moreover, the spatial distribution of activity during tracking was larger than that during fixation or tracking of a foveal stimulus, suggesting that the greater spatial uncertainty about the invisible goal corresponded to more widespread SC activity. These results demonstrate the flexibility with which activity across the SC represents the location - and also the spatial precision - of behaviorally relevant goals for multiple eye movements.
Superior Colliculus; Pursuit; Voluntary Eye Movement; Stimulus-Response; Behavioral Goal; Population Coding
In three experiments, we investigated the hypothesis that age-related differences in working memory might be due to the inability to bind content with context. Participants were required to find a repeating stimulus within a single series (no context memory required) or within multiple series (necessitating memory for context). Response time and accuracy were examined in two task domains: verbal and visuospatial. Binding content with context led to longer processing time and poorer accuracy in both age groups, even when working memory load was held constant. Although older adults were overall slower and less accurate than younger adults, the need for context memory did not differentially affect their performance. It is therefore unlikely that age differences in working memory are due to specific age-related problems with content-with-context binding.
Source memory; working memory; context memory; aging; age differences