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Aging affects the balance of neural entrainment and top-down neural modulation in the listening brain

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Henry,  Molly
Max Planck Research Group Auditory Cognition, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, Brain and Mind Institute, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Cananda;

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Herrmann,  Björn
Max Planck Research Group Auditory Cognition, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, Brain and Mind Institute, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Cananda;

Kunke ,  Dunja
Max Planck Research Group Auditory Cognition, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Obleser,  Jonas
Max Planck Research Group Auditory Cognition, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, University of Lübeck, Germany;

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Citation

Henry, M., Herrmann, B., Kunke, D., & Obleser, J. (2017). Aging affects the balance of neural entrainment and top-down neural modulation in the listening brain. Nature Communications, 8: 15801. doi:10.1038/ncomms15801.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-B4B6-5
Abstract
Healthy aging is accompanied by listening difficulties, including decreased speech comprehension, that stem from an ill-understood combination of sensory and cognitive changes. Here, we use electroencephalography to demonstrate that auditory neural oscillations of older adults entrain less firmly and less flexibly to speech-paced (∼3 Hz) rhythms than younger adults’ during attentive listening. These neural entrainment effects are distinct in magnitude and origin from the neural response to sound per se. Non-entrained parieto-occipital alpha (8–12 Hz) oscillations are enhanced in young adults, but suppressed in older participants, during attentive listening. Entrained neural phase and task-induced alpha amplitude exert opposite, complementary effects on listening performance: higher alpha amplitude is associated with reduced entrainment-driven behavioural performance modulation. Thus, alpha amplitude as a task-driven, neuro-modulatory signal can counteract the behavioural corollaries of neural entrainment. Balancing these two neural strategies may present new paths for intervention in age-related listening difficulties.