Today, Linda Geerligs, PhD student in Experimental Psychology and supervised by Monicque Lorist and PredSL PI Natasha Maurits, published a paper in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience on the effects of age on the suppression of irrelevant information.
The extent of decline of inhibitory functions with age is highly variable between individuals. In this study, Linda used event-related potentials (ERPs) and phase locking analyses to investigate neural correlates of this variability in inhibition between individuals. Older and younger participants performed a selective attention task in which relevant and irrelevant information was presented simultaneously. The participants were split into high and low performers based on their level of inhibition inefficiency, that is, the slowing of reaction times induced by information that participants were instructed to ignore. Efficient inhibition in both age groups was related to increased functional connectivity in the alpha band between frontal and occipito-parietal areas in the prestimulus interval. In addition, increased power in the alpha band in occipito-parietal areas was related to better inhibition both before and after stimulus onset. Phase locking in the upper beta band before and during stimulus presentation between frontal and occipito-parietal regions was related to better performance in older participants only, suggesting that this is an active compensation mechanism employed to maintain adequate performance. In addition, increased top-down modulation and increased power in the alpha band appears to be a general mechanism facilitating inhibition in both age groups.