Infoscience

Journal article

Age-related changes in visually evoked electrical brain activity

Whereas much is known about the degenerative effects of aging on cortical tissue, less is known about how aging affects visually evoked electrical activity, and at what latencies. We compared visual processing in elderly and young controls using a visual masking paradigm, which is particularly sensitive to detect temporal processing deficits, while recording EEG. The results show that, on average, elderly have weaker visual evoked potentials than controls, and that elderly show a distinct scalp potential topography (microstate) at around 150 ms after stimulus onset. This microstate occurred irrespective of the visual stimulus presented. Electrical source imaging showed that the changes in the scalp potential resulted from decreased activity in lateral occipital cortex and increases in fronto-parietal areas. We saw, however, no evidence that increased fronto-parietal activity enhanced performance on the discrimination task, and no evidence that it compensated for decreased posterior activity. Our results show qualitatively different patterns of visual evoked potentials (VEPs) in the elderly, and demonstrate that increased fronto-parietal activity arises during visual processing in the elderly already between 150 and 200 ms after stimulus onset. The microstate associated with these changes is a potential diagnostic tool to detect age-related cortical changes. Hum Brain Mapp, 2011. (c) 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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