Consistent pre-stimulus influences on auditory perception across the lifespan.


Department for Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Biology, Bielefeld University, Universitätsstr. 25, 33615, Bielefeld, Germany; Cognitive Interaction Technology - Center of Excellence, Bielefeld University, Inspiration 1, 33615, Bielefeld, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]


As we get older, perception in cluttered environments becomes increasingly difficult as a result of changes in peripheral and central neural processes. Given the aging society, it is important to understand the neural mechanisms constraining perception in the elderly. In young participants, the state of rhythmic brain activity prior to a stimulus has been shown to modulate the neural encoding and perceptual impact of this stimulus - yet it remains unclear whether, and if so, how, the perceptual relevance of pre-stimulus activity changes with age. Using the auditory system as a model, we recorded EEG activity during a frequency discrimination task from younger and older human listeners. By combining single-trial EEG decoding with linear modelling we demonstrate consistent statistical relations between pre-stimulus power and the encoding of sensory evidence in short-latency EEG components, and more variable relations between pre-stimulus phase and subjects' decisions in longer-latency components. At the same time, we observed a significant slowing of auditory evoked responses and a flattening of the overall EEG frequency spectrum in the older listeners. Our results point to mechanistically consistent relations between rhythmic brain activity and sensory encoding that emerge despite changes in neural response latencies and the relative amplitude of rhythmic brain activity with age.


Aging,Auditory evoked potential,EEG,Oscillatory brain activity,Pre-stimulus,Single-trial decoding,

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