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Poster A137

How does the aging brain respond to acoustically challenging speech? Insights from simultaneous EEG, pupillometry and memory outcomes

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Jack Silcox1 (, Karen Bennett1, Allyson Copeland1, Sarah Ferguson1, Brennan Payne1; 1University of Utah

As we age, the impact of acoustic challenge on speech processing and memory increases but older adults may engage in strategies that help them compensate for these demands. In the current study, older adults listened to sentences—presented in quiet or in noise—that were high constraint with expected or unexpected endings (“He shouted at the top of his lungs/staircase”) or low constraint with unexpected endings (“She was nervous to see the new staircase”). On average, we found a pattern replicating prior work in younger adults: in noise—compared to quiet—there was an increase in pupil size, ERP responses were delayed and reduced, and memory performance decreased. Recent work in younger adults has found that when listening in noise, a larger pupillary response predicted a recovery of the N400, at the cost of poorer memory performance. However, the results from the noise condition in the current study show that, while older adults had similar decreases in memory performance with increases in pupil size, they did not have the associated recovery of their ERP responses. Instead, in quiet, we found that increases in pupil size were associated with delays in ERP onset latencies and increased recognition memory performance. In conclusion, while older adults on average appear to be affected similarly by acoustic challenge, transient changes in arousal (measured via pupillometry) lead to tradeoffs in ERP and memory outcomes that emerge in quiet. While in noise, there is still the cost associated with transient increases in arousal without the corresponding benefits.

Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Development & aging


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April 13–16  |  2024