The effects of age on within-trial modulation of cognitive control.
Hutcheon, Thomas G.
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Cognitive control allows us to function in a world filled with constant stimulation. For example, the act of reading a book requires the ability to inhibit irrelevant information while focusing attention towards the letters on the page. Our cognitive control system regulates what information receives attention and what is denied resources. The goal of the current paper is to investigate the mechanisms underlying the activation and maintenance of the control system and how this process changes in healthy aging. First, the ability of younger and older adults to activate and maintain control in response to trial type manipulations is investigated. Second, improvements are made to recent experimental evidence suggesting younger adults are able to modulate performance based on specific stimulus history. Third, this work is extended to an older population suggesting the ability to modulate performance based on specific stimulus history is maintained in healthy aging. Finally, it is demonstrated that current theories of control fail to account for age-related differences in performance based on the comparison of trial type and specific stimulus manipulations.