Older adults are known to have lesser cognitive control capability and greater susceptibility to distraction than young adults. Previous studies have reported age-related problems in selective attention and inhibitory control, yielding mixed results depending on modality and context in which stimuli and tasks were presented. The purpose of the study was to empirically demonstrate a modality-specific loss of inhibitory control in processing audio-visual information with ageing. A group of 30 young adults (mean age = 25.23, Standar Desviation (SD) = 1.86) and 22 older adults (mean age = 55.91, SD = 4.92) performed the audio-visual contour identification task (AV-CIT). We compared performance of visual/auditory identification (Uni-V, Uni-A) with that of visual/auditory identification in the presence of distraction in counterpart modality (Multi-V, Multi-A). The findings showed a modality-specific effect on inhibitory control. Uni-V performance was significantly better than Multi-V, indicating that auditory distraction significantly hampered visual target identification. However, Multi-A performance was significantly enhanced compared to Uni-A, indicating that auditory target performance was significantly enhanced by visual distraction. Additional analysis showed an age-specific effect on enhancement between Uni-A and Multi-A depending on the level of visual inhibition. Together, our findings indicated that the loss of visual inhibitory control was beneficial for the auditory target identification presented in a multimodal context in older adults. A likely multisensory information processing strategy in the older adults was further discussed in relation to aged cognition.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited