Challenging the Gold Standard in Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience: An Event-Related Potential Analysis of Math as We Grow and Reading as We Age




Wood, Matthew Thomas

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For my dissertation, I investigated populations that tend to be overlooked in cognitive neuroscience research in favor of a "gold standard": this being educated, monolingual English-speaking young adult college students. For both of my chapters in this dissertation, I use the event-related potential (ERP) technique to study the neurocognitive activity in children during arithmetic process and older adults during sentence processing. For the first chapter, I tested for differences in arithmetic processing between children and adults. These differences were difficult to quantify in the time-domain, so I utilized time-frequency analysis (TFA) to overcome this limitation. I found a reversal of the correctness effect in theta power between children and adults, indicating that these populations access different levels of cognitive processing; children rely on deep access to semantic memory whereas young adults use a more superficial and automated process. For the second chapter, I tested for evidence of prediction during sentence processing in older adults. I argue that testing in Spanish, which has a more informative morphology than English, is a better way to test for evidence of prediction. By measuring ERPs to articles that immediately precede an expected word, I found that older adults process articles differently depending on whether it would agree or disagree with the gender of the upcoming word. This indicates that older adults used early sentence context to predict a specific upcoming word. This finding highlights the need to consider cross-linguistic differences in language studies.


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Lifespan, Cognition