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Poster D5

Working memory interrupted: the role of age and benefits of anticipation

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Soner Ülkü1 (, Stephan Getzmann1, Edmund Wascher1, Daniel Schneider1; 1Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors

Task interruptions are an integral part of everyday life. Handling them requires the flexible use of working memory and attentional control mechanisms, which were shown to be affected by cognitive aging. Here, we investigated age effects on dealing with task interruptions, and potential advantages of anticipating an interruption, using EEG and a retrospective cueing (retro-cue) working memory (WM) paradigm. Young (18-30) and older (55-70) participants performed a visual WM task, in which they had to maintain the orientation of two bars, one of them being probed for report following a retro-cue. Within blocks of 10 trials, they were either always, never, or randomly interrupted with an arithmetic task before the onset of the retro-cue. As expected, interruptions induced lower performance in the primary task, and this decline was stronger in the older participants. However, in contract to younger participants, older participants benefited from anticipation. Further, the EEG revealed a lower oscillatory power in the theta frequency range and a reduced suppression of alpha/beta oscillatory power to the retro-cue following interruptions. These effects were more pronounced for the older participants. In both groups, anticipated interruptions were associated with increased theta and alpha/beta power before and during the interruption phase, and stronger beta suppression to the retro-cue. The results support the notion that interruptions impair the refocusing of attention on the primary task, more specifically so in older people. However, they also show that anticipation enables preparatory mechanisms for the interruption task and facilitates primary task resumption.

Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Working memory


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