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Cortical activity predicts which older adults recognize speech in noise and when

, : Cortical activity predicts which older adults recognize speech in noise and when. Journal of Neuroscience 35(9): 3929-3937

Speech recognition in noise can be challenging for older adults and elicits elevated activity throughout a cingulo-opercular network that is hypothesized to monitor and modify behaviors to optimize performance. A word recognition in noise experiment was used to test the hypothesis that cingulo-opercular engagement provides performance benefit for older adults. Healthy older adults (N = 31; 50-81 years of age; mean pure tone thresholds <32 dB HL from 0.25 to 8 kHz, best ear; species: human) performed word recognition in multitalker babble at 2 signal-to-noise ratios (SNR = +3 or +10 dB) during a sparse sampling fMRI experiment. Elevated cingulo-opercular activity was associated with an increased likelihood of correct recognition on the following trial independently of SNR and performance on the preceding trial. The cingulo-opercular effect increased for participants with the best overall performance. These effects were lower for older adults compared with a younger, normal-hearing adult sample (N = 18). Visual cortex activity also predicted trial-level recognition for the older adults, which resulted from discrete decreases in activity before errors and occurred for the oldest adults with the poorest recognition. Participants demonstrating larger visual cortex effects also had reduced fractional anisotropy in an anterior portion of the left inferior frontal-occipital fasciculus, which projects between frontal and occipital regions where activity predicted word recognition. Together, the results indicate that older adults experience performance benefit from elevated cingulo-opercular activity, but not to the same extent as younger adults, and that declines in attentional control can limit word recognition.


PMID: 25740521

DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2908-14.2015

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