Neural response adaptation plays an important role in perception and cognition. Here, we used electroencephalography to investigate how aging affects the temporal dynamics of neural adaptation in human auditory cortex. Younger (18-31 years) and older (51-70 years) normal hearing adults listened to tone sequences with varying onset-to-onset intervals. Our results show long-lasting neural adaptation such that the response to a particular tone is a nonlinear function of the extended temporal history of sound events. Most important, aging is associated with multiple changes in auditory cortex; older adults exhibit larger and less variable response magnitudes, a larger dynamic response range, and a reduced sensitivity to temporal context. Computational modeling suggests that reduced adaptation recovery times underlie these changes in the aging auditory cortex and that the extended temporal stimulation has less influence on the neural response to the current sound in older compared with younger individuals. Our human electroencephalography results critically narrow the gap to animal electrophysiology work suggesting a compensatory release from cortical inhibition accompanying hearing loss and aging.
Keywords: Aging; Electroencephalography; Neural adaptation; Temporal context.
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