Age-Related Differences in Face Recognition: Neural Correlates of Repetition and Semantic Priming in Young and Older Adults

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Difficulties in person recognition are among the common complaints associated with cognitive ageing. The present series of experiments therefore investigated face and person recognition in young and older adults. The authors examined how within-domain and cross-domain repetition as well as semantic priming affect familiar face recognition and analyzed both behavioral and event-related brain potential (ERP) measures to identify specific processing stages of age-related deficits. During repetition priming (Experiments 1 and 2), the authors observed evidence of an age-related deficit in behavioral priming and clear reductions of both the N250r and the N400 ERP priming effects in older participants. At the same time, both semantic priming (Experiment 3) and the associated N400 ERP effect of semantic priming were largely intact in older adults. The authors suggest that ageing selectively affects the access to domain-general representations of familiar people via bottom-up perceptual processing units. At the same time, accessing domain-general representations via top-down semantic units seems to be relatively preserved in older adults.

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