Synchrony Effects in Inhibitory Control Over Thought and Action

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Abstract

Two experiments explore whether synchrony between peak circadian arousal periods and time of testing influences inhibitory efficiency for younger and older adults. Experiment 1 assesses inhibitory control over no-longer-relevant thoughts, and Experiment 2 assesses control over unwanted but strong responses, as well as performance on neuropsychological tasks that index frontal function. Inhibitory control is greatest at optimal times for both age groups and is generally greater for younger than for older adults. Performance on 2 neuropsychological measures (Stroop and Trails) also changes over the day, at least for older adults, and is correlated with inhibitory indexes, suggesting that for older adults changes in inhibition may be mediated by circadian variations in frontal functioning. By contrast, access to well-learned responses is not vulnerable to synchrony or age effects.

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