Activation of frontal and parietal brain regions is associated with attentional control during visual search. We used fMRI to characterize age-related differences in frontoparietal activation in a highly efficient feature search task, detection of a shape singleton. On half of the trials, a salient distractor (a color singleton) was present in the display. The hypothesis was that frontoparietal activation mediated the relation between age and attentional capture by the salient distractor. Participants were healthy, community-dwelling individuals, 21 younger adults (19-29. years of age) and 21 older adults (60-87. years of age). Top-down attention, in the form of target predictability, was associated with an improvement in search performance that was comparable for younger and older adults. The increase in search reaction time (RT) associated with the salient distractor (attentional capture), standardized to correct for generalized age-related slowing, was greater for older adults than for younger adults. On trials with a color singleton distractor, search RT increased as a function of increasing activation in frontal regions, for both age groups combined, suggesting increased task difficulty. Mediational analyses disconfirmed the hypothesized model, in which frontal activation mediated the age-related increase in attentional capture, but supported an alternative model in which age was a mediator of the relation between frontal activation and capture.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience