Language of the Aging Brain: Event-Related Potential Studies of Comprehension in Older Adults

Edward W. Wlotko, Chia Lin Lee, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Normal aging brings increased richness in knowledge and experience as well as declines in cognitive abilities. Event-related brain potential (ERP) studies of language comprehension corroborate findings showing that the structure and organization of semantic knowledge remains relatively stable with age. Highlighting the advantages of the temporal and functional specificity of ERPs, this survey focuses on age-related changes in higher-level processes required for the successful comprehension of meaning representations built from multiple words. Older adults rely on different neural pathways and cognitive processes during normal, everyday comprehension, including a shift away from the predictive use of sentential context, differential recruitment of neural resources, and reduced engagement of controlled processing. Within age groups, however, there are important individual differences that, for example, differentiate a subset of older adults whose processing patterns more closely resemble that of young adults, providing a window into cognitive skills and abilities that may mediate or moderate age-related declines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-638
Number of pages16
JournalLinguistics and Language Compass
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language


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