Age-related cognitive decline has been accounted for by an age-related deficit in top-down attentional modulation of sensory cortical processing. In light of recent behavioral findings showing that age-related differences in selective attention are modality dependent, our goal was to investigate the role of sensory modality in age-related differences in top-down modulation of sensory cortical processing. This question was addressed by testing younger and older individuals in several memory tasks while undergoing fMRI. Throughout these tasks, perceptual features were kept constant while attentional instructions were varied, allowing us to devise all combinations of relevant and irrelevant, visual and auditory information. We found no top-down modulation of auditory sensory cortical processing in either age group. In contrast, we found top-down modulation of visual cortical processing in both age groups, and this effect did not differ between age groups. That is, older adults enhanced cortical processing of relevant visual information and suppressed cortical processing of visual distractors during auditory attention to the same extent as younger adults. The present results indicate that older adults are capable of suppressing irrelevant visual information in the context of cross-modal auditory attention, and thereby challenge the view that age-related attentional and cognitive decline is due to a general deficits in the ability to suppress irrelevant information.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V.
- Selective attention
- Sensory modality
- Top-down modulation