Age Differences in Decision-making Strategies to Process Featural vs. Structural Perturbations in Environmental Choice-Outcome Mappings
Chih-Yi Chen1 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Li-Sheng Wang1, Ting-Syuan Wang1, Chih-Chia Hsing1, Joshua Oon Soo Goh1; 1National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
Recognizing crucial survival features and grasping genuine structures amid environmental noise is vital for navigating life. Previous studies suggest that cognitive aging impacts older adults’ capacity to manage tasks involving uncertainty, maintain task representations, and preserve task structures. Yet, the specific influences of different sources of uncertainty on older adults’ cognitive processing of environmental information remain unclear. To address this, 27 younger adults and 22 older adults participated in a probabilistic fMRI experiment, which required them to choose keys with varied color and shape combinations in interconnected rooms to unlock doors and optimize rewards at different levels of uncertainty. Behavioral results demonstrated that older adults exhibited lower success rates than their younger counterparts, as featural noise increased, regardless of structural noise. Reinforcement learning-based computational models were employed to investigate the roles of selective attention and successor representation in accounting for age group behavioral differences. Younger adults favored a more model-free algorithm, while older adults tended toward a more model-based approach, despite both age groups being able to identify relevant dimensions. Finally, brain imaging results revealed that increased structural noise induced higher responses in default mode areas, with heightened medial frontal activation in older adults but increased precuneus activation in younger adults. Conversely, elevated featural noise prompted higher responses in non-default mode areas, with increased cerebellar and frontal responses in older adults and heightened parahippocampal and middle temporal responses in younger adults. The above findings reflect age-related differences in neurocomputational strategies that yield distinct behaviors in response to environmental uncertainty.
Topic Area: THINKING: Development & aging
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