Visual working memory (VWM) is essential for executive function and is known to be compromised in older adults. Yet, the cognitive and neural processes associated with these age-related changes remain inconclusive. The purpose of this study was to explore such factors with a dynamic neural field (DNF) model that was manipulated to replicate the behavioral performances of younger and older adults in a change detection task. Although previous work has successfully modeled children and younger adult VWM performance, this study represents the first attempt to model older adult VWM performance within the DNF architecture. In the behavioral task, older adults performed worse than younger adults and exhibited a characteristic response bias that favored “same” over “different” responses. The DNF model was modified to capture the age group differences, with three parameter manipulations producing the best fit for the behavioral performances. The best-fitting model suggests that older adults operate through altered excitatory and inhibitory coupling and decreased inhibitory signals, resulting in wider and weaker neural signals. These results support a dedifferentiation account of brain aging, with older adults operating with wider and weaker neural signals because of decreased intracortical inhibition rather than increased stochastic neural noise.

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