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Age Differences in Reaction Times and a Neurophysiological Marker of Cholinergic Activity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2015

Marielle Young-Bernier*
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa Bruyère Research Institute, University of Ottawa
Annick N. Tanguay
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa Bruyère Research Institute, University of Ottawa
François Tremblay
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa Bruyère Research Institute, University of Ottawa School of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Ottawa Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, University of Ottawa
Patrick S. R. Davidson*
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa Bruyère Research Institute, University of Ottawa Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, University of Ottawa
*
La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à: / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Marielle Young-Bernier, PhD School of Psychology University of Ottawa 136 Jean-Jacques Lussier Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5 (myoun006@uottawa.ca) or Patrick Davidson, PhD School of Psychology University of Ottawa 136 Jean-Jacques Lussier Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5 (patrick.davidson@uottawa.ca)
La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à: / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Marielle Young-Bernier, PhD School of Psychology University of Ottawa 136 Jean-Jacques Lussier Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5 (myoun006@uottawa.ca) or Patrick Davidson, PhD School of Psychology University of Ottawa 136 Jean-Jacques Lussier Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5 (patrick.davidson@uottawa.ca)

Abstract

The deterioration of the cholinergic system in aging is hypothesized to contribute to age-related declines in attention. We investigated potential age differences in performance on the Attention Network Test (ANT) and intra-individual variability in speed (RT-IIV) on go/no-go and choice reaction time tasks in young and healthy older adults. We also asked whether short-latency afferent inhibition (SAI), a neurophysiological marker of central cholinergic activity obtained via transcranial magnetic stimulation, might be correlated with performance. Older adults were slower on the ANT and exhibited greater RT-IIV than young adults on the multiple choice RT task, but there were no age differences on the ANT network scores (alerting, orienting, and executive control). SAI was diminished in older adults, but it was not significantly correlated with performance. It may only be in cases of severe cholinergic dysfunction that relations with attention emerge. Other brain mechanisms may also be stronger predictors of functions relating to attention.

Résumé

La détérioration du système cholinergique lors du vieillissement normal semble contribuer au déclin de l’attention avec l’âge. Nous avons examiné l’effet potentiel de l’âge sur la performance au « Attention Network Test » (ANT) ainsi que sur la variabilité intra-individuelle dans la vitesse des réponses à une tâche go/no-go et à une tâche de temps de réaction (TR) à choix multiples chez un groupe de jeunes adultes et de personnes âgées en santé. Nous avons ensuite examiné si un marqueur neurophysiologique de l’activité cholinergique dérivé de la stimulation magnétique transcrânienne (i.e., inhibition afférente à courte latence; IACL) était associé à la performance. Les personnes âgées montraient un ralentissement au ANT ainsi qu’une plus grande variabilité intra-individuelle que les jeunes adultes à la tâche de TR à choix multiples, mais il n’y avait pas de différence liée à l’âge dans les scores reflétant les réseaux attentionnels du ANT (vigilance, orientation aux stimuli et contrôle exécutif). Les niveaux de IACL étaient diminués chez les personnes âgées, mais ils n’étaient pas associés à la performance. Il est possible que des relations entre le marqueur de l’activité cholinergique et l’attention émergent seulement en cas de déficits de neurotransmission sévères. D’autres mécanismes corticaux pourraient aussi être plus fortement associés aux fonctions liées à l’attention.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2015 

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