Processing regular patterns in auditory scenes is important for navigating complex environments. Electroencephalography studies find enhancement of sustained brain activity, correlating with the emergence of a regular pattern in sounds. How aging, aging-related diseases such as Parkinson's disease (PD), and treatment of PD with dopaminergic therapy affect this fundamental function remain unknown. We addressed this knowledge gap. Healthy younger and older adults and patients with PD listened to sounds that contained or were devoid of regular patterns. Healthy older adults and patients with PD were tested twice-off and on dopaminergic medication, in counterbalanced order. Regularity-evoked, sustained electroencephalography activity was reduced in older, compared with younger adults. Patients with PD and older controls evidenced comparable attenuation of the sustained response. Dopaminergic therapy further weakened the sustained response in both older controls and patients with PD. These findings suggest that fundamental regularity processing is impacted by aging but not specifically by PD. The finding that dopaminergic therapy attenuates rather than improves the sustained response coheres with the dopamine overdose response and is in line with previous findings that regularity processing implicates brain regions receiving dopamine from the ventral tegmental area that is relatively spared in PD and normal aging.
Keywords: Auditory regularity; Dopamine; Parkinson's disease; Regularity processing; Scene analysis.
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