Age differences in electrophysiological correlates of cross-modal phrasal interpretation

Shani H. Abada, Karsten Steinhauer, John E. Drury, Shari R. Baum, McGill University

Research shows that older adults may be more sensitive than young adults to prosody, although performance varies depending on task requirements. Here we used electroencephalography to examine responses to simple phrases produced with an Early or Late boundary, presented with matching or mismatching visual displays. While some older adults successfully detected prosodic mismatches, many failed to do so. Nonetheless, mismatches elicited a P600-like positivity in all participants. Those individuals who accurately judged prosody also displayed a second negative-going prosodic mismatch response. Findings show that older adults vary in their reliance on prosody, as reflected both in behavioral and ERP responses.