Effects of age on cognitive control during semantic categorization

Raksha A. Mudar, Hsueh Sheng Chiang, Mandy J. Maguire, Jeffrey S. Spence, Justin Eroh, Michael A. Kraut, John Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to study age effects of perceptual (basic-level) vs. perceptual-semantic (superordinate-level) categorization on cognitive control using the go/nogo paradigm. Twenty-two younger (11 M; 21. ±. 2.2 years) and 22 older adults (9 M; 63. ±. 5.8 years) completed two visual go/nogo tasks. In the single-car task (SiC) (basic), go/nogo responses were made based on single exemplars of a car (go) and a dog (nogo). In the object animal task (ObA) (superordinate), responses were based on multiple exemplars of objects (go) and animals (nogo). Each task consisted of 200 trials: 160 (80%) 'go' trials that required a response through button pressing and 40 (20%) 'nogo' trials that required inhibition/withholding of a response. ERP data revealed significantly reduced nogo-N2 and nogo-P3 amplitudes in older compared to younger adults, whereas go-N2 and go-P3 amplitudes were comparable in both groups during both categorization tasks. Although the effects of categorization levels on behavioral data and P3 measures were similar in both groups with longer response times, lower accuracy scores, longer P3 latencies, and lower P3 amplitudes in ObA compared to SiC, N2 latency revealed age group differences moderated by the task. Older adults had longer N2 latency for ObA compared to SiC, in contrast, younger adults showed no N2 latency difference between SiC and ObA. Overall, these findings suggest that age differentially affects neural processing related to cognitive control during semantic categorization. Furthermore, in older adults, unlike in younger adults, levels of categorization modulate neural processing related to cognitive control even at the early stages (N2).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Aging
  • Categorization
  • Cognitive control
  • Event-related potentials
  • Semantic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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