Error detection across the adult lifespan: Electrophysiological evidence for age-related deficits
In a recent study, we examined the neural processing of errors across the adult lifespan (69 participants; age range 20–72 years) by analysing the error (-related) negativity (Ne/ERN) and the error positivity (Pe) using an adapted version of the Go/Nogo task. Theoretically, the Ne/ERN component is visible after all errors (reflecting error processing in general), whereas the Pe can only be seen after subjectively detected errors (thus reflecting specifically error detection).
Our results suggest that on a behavioural level, older adults do not make more errors than younger participants. Intriguingly, older age could be associated with a greater proportion of undetected errors. These deficits were mirrored by results of the error-related components: Whereas the Pe amplitude for detected errors was significantly smaller in older adults, the Ne/ERN amplitude did not show age-related changes (Fig. 1).
Structural path models suggested that through those age-related changes in Pe amplitude, an indirect effect on the performance was observed (Fig. 2).
Our results confirm and extend previous extreme-group based findings about specific deficits in error detection associated with higher age using age as a continuous predictor.
Niessen, E., Fink, G. R., Hoffmann, H. E. M., Weiss, P.H., & Stahl, J. (2017). Error detection across the adult lifespan: Electrophysiological evidence for age-related deficits. NeuroImage, 152, 517-529.