Background: In comparison to controlled (attentional) processing, relatively little is known about the age-related changes of the earlier (preattentive) processes. An event-related potential (ERP) index of preattentive (automatic) visual processing, the visual mismatch negativity (vMMN) is a good candidate for analyzing age-related differences in the automatic processing of visual events. Objective: So far results concerning age-related changes in vMMN have been equivocal. Our aim was to develop a method resulting in a reliable vMMN in a paradigm short enough to use in the applied field. Methods: We investigated an older (mean age: 66.4 years, n = 15) and a younger (mean age: 22.4 years, n = 15) group of healthy women. ERPs were obtained for checkerboard onset patterns in a passive oddball condition (during which participants performed a tracking task). One of the checkerboards was frequent (standard; p = 0.8), and the other was rare (deviant; p = 0.2). Results: VMMN emerged over posterior locations in the latency range of 100-300 ms in both age groups. The amplitude of the earlier part of the vMMN was similar in the older and the younger participants, but latency was longer in the older group. The later part of the vMMN was slightly diminished in the elderly. Conclusion: Automatic detection of violated sequential regularities, reflected by the vMMN, emerged in the two age groups (earlier vMMN). However, detection of stimulus change, a preattentive visual process delayed in the elderly, and identification of the specific change was compromised in the older participants.
- Event-related brain potential
- Visual mismatch negativity
- Visual perception
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geriatrics and Gerontology