Age-related reduction of hemispheric lateralisation for spatial attention: An EEG study

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Abstract

A group-level visuospatial attention bias towards the left side of space (pseudoneglect) is consistently observed in young adults, which is likely to be a consequence of right parieto-occipital dominance for spatial attention. Conversely, healthy older adults demonstrate a rightward shift of this behavioural bias, hinting that an age-related reduction of lateralised neural activity may occur within visuospatial attention networks. We compared young (aged 18–25) and older (aged 60–80) adults on a computerised line bisection (landmark) task whilst recording event-related potentials (ERPs). Full-scalp cluster mass permutation tests identified a larger right parieto-occipital response for long lines compared to short in young adults (confirming Benwell et al., 2014a) which was not present in the older group. To specifically investigate age-related differences in hemispheric lateralisation, cluster mass permutation tests were then performed on a lateralised EEG dataset (RH-LH electrodes). A period of right lateralisation was identified in response to long lines in young adults, which was not present for short lines. No lateralised clusters were present for either long or short lines in older adults. Additionally, a reduced P300 component amplitude was observed for older adults relative to young. We therefore report here, for the first time, an age-related and stimulus-driven reduction of right hemispheric control of spatial attention in older adults. Future studies will need to determine whether this is representative of the normal aging process or an early indicator of neurodegeneration.

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