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Being able to orient our attention to moments in time is crucial for optimizing behavioural performance. In young adults, flexible cue-based temporal expectations have been shown to modulate perceptual functions and enhance behavioural performance. Recent studies with older individuals have reported significant deficits in cued temporal orienting. To investigate the extent of these deficits, we conducted three studies in healthy old and young adults. For each study, participants completed two tasks: a reaction-time task that emphasized speeded responding and a non-speeded rapid-serial-visual-presentation task that emphasized visual discrimination. Auditory cues indicated the likelihood of a target item occurring after a short or long temporal interval (foreperiod) (75% validity). In the first study, cues indicating a short or a long foreperiod were manipulated across blocks. The second study was designed to replicate and extend the first study by manipulating the predictive temporal cues on a trial-by-trial basis. The third study extended the findings by including ‘neutral’ cues so that it was possible to separate cueing validity benefits and invalidity costs. In all three studies, cued temporal expectation conferred significant performance advantages for target stimuli occurring after the short foreperiod for both old and young participants. Contrary to previous findings, our results suggest that the ability to allocate attention to moments in time can be preserved in healthy aging. Further research is needed to ascertain whether similar neural networks are used to orient attention in time as we age, and/or whether compensatory mechanisms are at work in older individuals.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Psychology and Aging

Publisher

American Psychological Association

Publication Date

08/2016