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 (â 1/43 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.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)