Electrophysiological differences in older and younger adults’ anaphoric but not cataphoric pronoun processing in the absence of age-related behavioural slowdown

Arslan, S., Palasis, K. & Meunier, F., Nov-2020, In : Scientific Reports. 10, 1, 13 p., 19234.

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This study reports on an event-related potentials experiment to uncover whether per-millisecond electrophysiological brain activity and analogous behavioural responses are age-sensitive when comprehending anaphoric (referent-first) and cataphoric (pronoun-first) pronouns. Two groups of French speakers were recruited (young n = 18; aged 19–35 and older adults n = 15; aged 57–88) to read sentences where the anaphoric/cataphoric pronouns and their potential referents either matched or mismatched in gender. Our findings indicate that (1) the older adults were not less accurate or slower in their behavioural responses to the mismatches than the younger adults, (2) both anaphoric and cataphoric conditions evoked a central/parietally distributed P600 component with similar timing and amplitude in both the groups. Importantly, mean amplitudes of the P600 effect were modulated by verbal short-term memory span in the older adults but not in the younger adults, (3) nevertheless, the older but not the younger adults displayed an additional anterior negativity emerging on the frontal regions in response to the anaphoric mismatches. These results suggest that pronoun processing is resilient in healthy ageing individuals, but that functional recruitment of additional brain regions, evidenced with the anterior negativity, compensates for increased processing demands in the older adults’ anaphora processing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19234
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2020

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