Aging is often associated with increased distractibility that may arise from a failure to adequately suppress the processing of irrelevant sensory information. In our recent Cerebral Cortex paper, we show that decreasing word intelligibility was associated with increasing visual cortex activity in younger, middle-aged, and older adults. In addition, age was related visual cortex activity: while younger adults suppressed visual cortex activity during listening, aging was associated with reduced suppression and increasing visual cortex activity. Our findings guide the prediction that both age and listening difficulty impact the likelihood that irrelevant sensory information will be distractible.Alternatively, this change could reflect the engagement of multi-sensory representations to help identify speech in difficult listening conditions.
The Neurodiversity Lab is this year’s recepient of the Deafness Research Foundation Centurion Clinical Research Award to study the plasticity of neural systems that process orthography and phonology in older adults.