Comparable mechanisms of working memory interference by auditory and visual motion in youth and aging

Neuropsychologia. 2013 Aug;51(10):1896-906. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.06.011. Epub 2013 Jun 19.


Intrasensory interference during visual working memory (WM) maintenance by object stimuli (such as faces and scenes), has been shown to negatively impact WM performance, with greater detrimental impacts of interference observed in aging. Here we assessed age-related impacts by intrasensory WM interference from lower-level stimulus features such as visual and auditory motion stimuli. We consistently found that interference in the form of ignored distractions and secondary task interruptions presented during a WM maintenance period, degraded memory accuracy in both the visual and auditory domain. However, in contrast to prior studies assessing WM for visual object stimuli, feature-based interference effects were not observed to be significantly greater in older adults. Analyses of neural oscillations in the alpha frequency band further revealed preserved mechanisms of interference processing in terms of post-stimulus alpha suppression, which was observed maximally for secondary task interruptions in visual and auditory modalities in both younger and older adults. These results suggest that age-related sensitivity of WM to interference may be limited to complex object stimuli, at least at low WM loads.

Keywords: Aging; Alpha oscillations; Auditory; Distraction; Interference; Motion; Visual; Working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult