Age-related changes in the impact of contextual strength on multiple aspects of sentence comprehension

Edward W. Wlotko, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contextual information influences multiple aspects of language comprehension extended over time. To determine how age-related changes impact normal comprehension, effects of contextual strength were examined with event-related potentials. Increased contextual constraint facilitated semantic processing (reduced N400s). Effects were smaller and delayed for older adults, and sensitivity to contextual information was diminished for weak contexts. Both groups elicited a later left-lateralized frontal negativity associated with reinterpretation of context when multiple interpretations of a sentence were likely. Older adults evidenced the frontal negativity over a wider range of constraint. The change in the use of contextual information across age is attributed to decreased reliance on predictive processing for older adults. Thus, age-related changes in comprehension lead to differential engagement of processing resources over time for older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)770-785
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Aging
  • Event-related potentials (ERP)
  • Frontal/anterior negativity
  • Language
  • N400
  • Sentence comprehension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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