Does predictive cueing of presentation time modulate alpha power and facilitate visual working memory performance in younger and older adults?

Brain Cogn. 2022 Jun;159:105861. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2022.105861. Epub 2022 Mar 19.


Selective attention and working memory (WM) are vulnerable to age-related decline. Older adults perform worse on, and are less able to modulate alpha power (8-12 Hz) than younger adults in tasks involving cues about 'where' or 'when' a memory set will appear. However, no study has investigated whether alpha power is modulated by cues predicting the presentation time of a memory set. Here, we recorded electroencephalography while 24 younger (18-33 years) and 23 older (60-77 years) adults completed a modified delay match-to-sample task where participants were cued to the duration of a memory set (0.1 s or 0.5 s). We found: (1) predictive cues increased WM storage; (2) no differences in preparatory alpha power between predictive and neutral cue types, but preparatory alpha suppression was weaker in older adults; (3) retention period oscillatory power differed between presentation times, but these differences were no longer present when comparing trial types from the onset of the memory set; and (4) oscillatory power in the preparatory and retention periods were unrelated to performance. Our results suggest that preparatory alpha power is not modulated by predictive cues towards presentation time, however, reductions in alpha/beta power during visual WM retention may be linked to encoding, rather than retention.

Keywords: Cognitive ageing; EEG; Working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alpha Rhythm
  • Attention
  • Cues*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term*