EEG beta band activity is related to attention and attentional deficits in the visual performance of elderly subjects
We have previously shown that beta-band EEG activity is related to attentional modulation in the visual system of cats and humans. In a separate experiment we also observed that some elderly subjects expressed beta-band power decreases during a simple visual attention task, an effect which was accompanied by low behavioral accuracy in this subgroup. Here, we conducted a detailed examination of beta power deficits in elderly subjects in comparison to young controls. In order to do so, we equalized the subjective level of task difficulty by adjusting visual stimuli presentation duration in such a way that elderly and young subjects achieved similar behavioral results. We found that: (1) beta-band power of EEG signals recorded over occipital regions in elderly and young groups is related to visual attention, as judged from increases in beta power preceding correct responses and lack of beta activity change before erroneous responses; (2) despite forming a homogeneous group when screened for dementia (MMSE), age, education level, visual correction, and speed-accuracy trade-off strategy, elderly subjects could be assigned into one of the two subgroups: high performers, who did not differ from young performers in terms of beta-band power increases, and low ;performers, whose beta power decreased during the most difficult attentional conditions (shortest - 3 s and longest - 11 s cue-target delays). These findings posit that the beta-band activity decrease recorded in low performing elderly subjects reflects difficulty in activation and deficits in sustaining attentional processes. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.