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Seminar Abstract

Assessing impacts of aging on human motor and executive control under unified quantification of task difficulty.

Speaker : Dr Erik Chang, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, National Central University, Taiwan.
Date : 20th of November 2018, 12:00PM until 1:00PM
Location : Australian Hearing Hub, 3.610, Macquarie University.

    In both the realms of cognitive and motor functions, there have been attempts to determine whether compensation or dedifferentiation better capture the essence of the aging-related overactivation. However, to date there still lacks systematic comparisons between the impacts of aging on both domains. To this end, the current study adopted unified quantification of task difficulty (bits) in both the motor (Fitt’s paradigm) and executive (Majority search) domains for fair comparison in the elderly and the young groups. Participants encountered trials with difficulty levels varying in the units of bits, and their response time were analyzed by fitting a linear function between response time and the difficulty. We observed significant main effect of Age for both slopes and intercepts, significant main effect of Task only for intercepts, and significant interaction only for slopes. Preliminary analysis on MEG frequency spectrum in the young group showed that task difficulty induced significant differential modulations in 4, 11, and 14Hz bands at left temporal and right occipital channels after approximately 500 ms of response initiation in the two domains. While the results of slopes indicate differential ageing pattern for loading dependent processes in motor control (i.e., steeper in the elderly than in the young group) but not in executive function, the results of intercepts suggest an overall age-related decline for basic processing speed across both domains. As such, we demonstrated that via quantification of task difficulty in the same unit, one can not only directly compare distinct types of cognitive functions, but also further dissect their components parametrically for the comparison of age differences. Future work can apply the same approach to compare a wide array of cognitive functions and across the whole life span.

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