Abstract

With increasing age, people experience more difficulties with suppressing irrelevant information, which may have a major impact on cognitive functioning. The extent of decline of inhibitory functions with age is highly variable between individuals. In this study, we used ERPs and phase locking analyses to investigate neural correlates of this variability in inhibition between individuals. Older and younger participants performed a selective attention task in which relevant and irrelevant information was presented simultaneously. The participants were split into high and low performers based on their level of inhibition inefficiency, that is, the slowing of RTs induced by information that participants were instructed to ignore. P1 peak amplitudes were larger in low performers than in high performers, indicating that low performers were less able to suppress the processing of irrelevant stimuli. Phase locking analyses were used as a measure of functional connectivity. Efficient inhibition in both age groups was related to the increased functional connectivity in the alpha band between frontal and occipito-parietal ROIs in the prestimulus interval. In addition, increased power in the alpha band in occipito-parietal ROIs was related to better inhibition both before and after stimulus onset. Phase locking in the upper beta band before and during stimulus presentation between frontal and occipito-parietal ROIs was related to a better performance in older participants only, suggesting that this is an active compensation mechanism employed to maintain adequate performance. In addition, increased top–down modulation and increased power in the alpha band appears to be a general mechanism facilitating inhibition in both age groups.

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