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Overall Vigilance and Sustained Attention Decrements in Healthy Aging

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Age differences in sustained attention were investigated using a high event rate digit-discrimination task at 6 levels of stimulus degradation (lasting 8.1 min each). Twenty-one young, 21 middle-aged, and 20 old healthy subjects were studied. Overall sensitivity (d) was equivalent in all groups. Although all subjects showed a sensitivity decrement over blocks, there were no age-related differences in sustained attention capacity. All subjects had larger decrements in d' over blocks at higher degradation levels. However, the performance decrement at higher degradation levels was equivalent in all groups, indicating similar decrement rates in sensitivity with increasing demands on effortful processing. These results indicate that overall levels of vigilance and the ability to sustain attention over time are equivalent in all groups under conditions requiring both automatic (low-degradation) and effortful (high-degradation) stimulus processing.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Maryland, USA 2: Cognitive Science Laboratory, Catholic University of America, Washington DC, USA

Publication date: 01 January 2001

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