Event-related potentials reveal the effects of aging on meaning selection and revision

Aaron M. Meyer, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ERPs were recorded as older adults decided if a target word was related to a lateralized ambiguous or unambiguous prime; prime-target pairs were preceded by a related or unrelated context word. In an unrelated context, N400 facilitation effects differed from those seen in young adults, with older adults showing priming for the dominant meaning (e.g., BOOM-BANK-DEPOSIT) on right visual field/left hemisphere (RVF/LH) trials and priming for the subordinate meaning (e.g., BOOM-BANK-RIVER) on LVF/RH trials. Higher-functioning older adults, especially those with better inhibition, were more likely to show bilateral activation of the dominant meaning and unilateral activation of the subordinate meaning, suggesting a retention of young-like activation. In a biasing context (e.g., RIVER-BANK-DEPOSIT), older adults selected the contextually-consistent meaning, but were less likely than young adults to revise their selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)673-686
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Aging
  • Cerebral hemispheres
  • Event-related potentials
  • LPC
  • Language
  • N400
  • Semantic ambiguity

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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