Abstract

Recent computational modeling and behavioral work indicate that age-related declines in the ability to represent task context may contribute to disruptions of working memory and selective attention in older adults. However, it is unclear whether age-related declines in context processing arise from a disruption of the encoding or maintenance of task context and how age-related declines in context processing interact with mechanisms supporting conflict detection and resolution processes contributing to efficient selection of task-relevant information. This study examines the effects of aging on the neural correlates of context and conflict processing in the Stroop task using event-related brain potentials (ERPs). Age-related differences in the time course of modulations of the ERPs associated with encoding (P3) and maintaining (slow wave) task context were observed. There were also age-related differences in the N450, conflict SP, and ERN associated with conflict processing that interacted with task context. These data indicate that aging is associated with declines in the efficiency of those neural mechanisms supporting both context and conflict processing, and that the effects of aging are not pervasive but rather interact with task context.

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