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Individual differences in peripheral hearing and cognition reveal sentence processing differences in healthy older adults


Kurthen, Ira; Meyer, Martin; Schlesewsky, Matthias; Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Ina (2020). Individual differences in peripheral hearing and cognition reveal sentence processing differences in healthy older adults. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14:573513.

Abstract

When viewed cross-sectionally, aging seems to negatively affect speech comprehension. However, aging is a heterogeneous process, and variability among older adults is typically large. In this study, we investigated language comprehension as a function of individual differences in older adults. Specifically, we tested whether hearing thresholds, working memory, inhibition, and individual alpha frequency would predict event-related potential amplitudes in response to classic psycholinguistic manipulations at the sentence level. Twenty-nine healthy older adults (age range 61–76 years) listened to English sentences containing reduced relative clauses and object-relative clauses while their electroencephalogram was recorded. We found that hearing thresholds and working memory predicted P600 amplitudes early during reduced relative clause processing, while individual alpha frequency predicted P600 amplitudes at a later point in time. The results suggest that participants with better hearing and larger working memory capacity simultaneously activated both the preferred and the dispreferred interpretation of reduced relative clauses, while participants with worse hearing and smaller working memory capacity only activated the preferred interpretation. They also suggest that participants with a higher individual alpha frequency had a higher likelihood of successfully reanalysing the sentence toward the reduced relative clause reading than participants with a lower individual alpha frequency. By contrast, we found no relationship between object-relative clause processing and working memory or hearing thresholds. Taken together, the results support the view that older adults employ different strategies during auditory sentence processing dependent on their hearing and cognitive abilities and that there is no single ability that uniformly predicts sentence processing outcomes.

Abstract

When viewed cross-sectionally, aging seems to negatively affect speech comprehension. However, aging is a heterogeneous process, and variability among older adults is typically large. In this study, we investigated language comprehension as a function of individual differences in older adults. Specifically, we tested whether hearing thresholds, working memory, inhibition, and individual alpha frequency would predict event-related potential amplitudes in response to classic psycholinguistic manipulations at the sentence level. Twenty-nine healthy older adults (age range 61–76 years) listened to English sentences containing reduced relative clauses and object-relative clauses while their electroencephalogram was recorded. We found that hearing thresholds and working memory predicted P600 amplitudes early during reduced relative clause processing, while individual alpha frequency predicted P600 amplitudes at a later point in time. The results suggest that participants with better hearing and larger working memory capacity simultaneously activated both the preferred and the dispreferred interpretation of reduced relative clauses, while participants with worse hearing and smaller working memory capacity only activated the preferred interpretation. They also suggest that participants with a higher individual alpha frequency had a higher likelihood of successfully reanalysing the sentence toward the reduced relative clause reading than participants with a lower individual alpha frequency. By contrast, we found no relationship between object-relative clause processing and working memory or hearing thresholds. Taken together, the results support the view that older adults employ different strategies during auditory sentence processing dependent on their hearing and cognitive abilities and that there is no single ability that uniformly predicts sentence processing outcomes.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:16 October 2020
Deposited On:27 Oct 2020 16:29
Last Modified:27 Jan 2022 02:52
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1662-453X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.573513
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDP0ZHP1_172268
  • : Project TitleHearing loss and cognition in old age: A fine-grained investigation of speech processing under adverse listening conditions
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)