A cross-sectional study of normal aging associated working memory differences
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The current study used a cross-sectional design, comparing younger, middle-aged, and older adults’ cortical neural activation recorded by dense-array electroencephalography (EEG) in an auditory working memory task. The operational span task (OSPAN) was administered to all subjects to evaluate their working memory capacity. Response latency and strength of the evoked EEG potentials associated with sensory stimuli processes (N100, P200, N200) and working memory (P300) were compared across age groups. Our findings indicate that middle-aged and old subjects had altered cortical neural activations (N100, P200, and N200) during sensory processes compared to young subjects, suggesting an age-associated overexcitement. This reduced inhibitory regulation from sensory processes resulted in sequential changes in P300, which corresponded with subjects’ behavioral performance quality in OSPAN test, i.e. old subjects had the lowest OSPAN scores and the young group had the highest OSPAN scores. The findings suggest that although age-associated cortical neural activation alternations are highly likely to associate with or lead to older subjects’ poorer behavioral performance tests; these cortical and behavioral changes can start during individual’s middle age.