Reduced inter-hemispheric interference in ageing: Evidence from a divided field Stroop paradigm

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Abstract

One of the most important structural changes that occur in the brain during the course of life relates to the corpus callosum, the largest neural pathway that connects the two cerebral hemispheres. It has been shown that the corpus callosum, and in particular its anterior sections, endures a process of degeneration in ageing. Hence, a primary question is whether such structural changes in the brain of older adults have functional consequences on inter-hemispheric communication. In particular, whether the atrophy of the corpus callosum in ageing may lead to a higher or lower level of inter-hemispheric interference is currently unknown. To investigate this question, we asked young and healthy older adults to perform modified versions of the classic Stroop paradigm in which the target and distracter were spatially separated. Across two experiments, we found that the Stroop effect was significantly reduced in older adults when the two stimuli were distributed in two different hemifields as opposed to the same single hemifield. This new finding suggests that age-related callosal thinning reduces inter-hemispheric interference by facilitating the two hemispheres to process information in parallel.

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