Searching for the Trace:: The Influence of Age, Lexical Activation and Working Memory on Sentence Processing

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To investigate the stability of trace reactivation in healthy older adults, 22 older volunteers with no significant neurological history participated in a cross-modal priming task. Whilst both object relative center embedded (ORC) and object relative right branching (ORR) sentences were employed, working memory load was reduced by limiting the number of words separating the antecedent from the gap for both sentence types. Analysis of the results did not reveal any significant trace reactivation for the ORC or ORR sentences. The results did reveal, however, a positive correlation between age and semantic priming at the pre-gap position and a negative correlation between age and semantic priming at the gap position for ORC sentences. In contrast, there was no correlation between age and priming effects for the ORR sentences. These results indicated that trace reactivation may be sensitive to a variety of age related factors, including lexical activation and working memory. The implications of these results for sentence processing in the older population are discussed.

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