Poster D4, Friday, August 17, 4:45 – 6:30 pm, Room 2000AB

Effect of bilingualism and perceptual load on the subcomponents of attention in older adults: Evidence from the ANT task

Tanya Dash1,2, Yves Joanette1,2, Ana Inés Ansaldo1,2;1Centre de recherche de l’Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, Quebec, 2École d’orthophonie et d’audiologie, Faculté de médecine, Université de Montréal, Quebec

Life-long experience of using two or more languages enhances the attentional control abilities (Bialystok, 2011; Costa et al., 2008). This bilingual experience may also foster cognitive reserve (CR) – protective shield for old age to delay cognitive decline. Age-related changes in the attentional control abilities are also influenced by the amount of perceptual load (PL) in the environment (Maylor & Lavie 1998). Attention is not a unitary function, but encompasses distinct components. Age, perceptual load as well as CR may affect the subcomponents of attention in a distinct manner. Thus, the goal of the study is to understand the influence of age, bilingualism and PL on the subcomponents of attention. Method: All the participants (30 French-English bilingual young (YA) and old adults (OA); 15 each) performed a behavioural version of the Attention Network Test (ANT) at three levels of PL. Age of acquisition, language use as well as language proficiency, were the measures of bilingualism. The Attention Network Test measures alerting, orienting and executive attention abilities (Fan et al., 2003). In the ANT, a target stimulus (a central arrow) is surrounded by flankers on each side. By comparing the two flanker condition – congruent (same direction for all arrows), and incongruent (flankers point in the opposite direction of the central arrow) – we measured the executive attention ability. There were also three types of warning cues before the target, to check for alerting and orienting abilities - no, center, double and spatial cues. The PL was manipulated by varying the set size of the arrows (3, 5, 7). Each trial begins with a fixation window of 400-1600 millisecond (jittered), followed by the cue window of 100 milliseconds. The stimuli appear either above or below the fixation (based on the cue type) for 1700 millisecond followed by the response window. Results and Discussion: A 2 (between; OA and YA)*3 (within; level of loads)*2 (within; condition) mixed ANOVA was performed for each of the subcomponents of attention separately. The result showed differences in performance with increasing level of load (3>5>7) for the OA in alerting, orienting and executive attention abilities. In contrast, YA showed effect of PL for executive attention only. Group differences were observed for alerting and executive attention abilities only (OA>YA; all p< 0.05), with more differences in high load condition. This suggests that the distraction from flankers generally increased with perceptual load as a function of age. Age-related differences were not present for all the subcomponents. Language proficiency measures were able to predict the ANT task performance. With the increasing age and perceptual load, L2 proficiency had positive correlation with executive attention and alerting abilities only. In conclusion, this study suggests that elderly bilinguals’ performance is influenced by the perceptual load, in addition to the cognitive reserve built over time. Thus, highlighting the dynamic and complex nature of the interaction between different aspects of goal-directed behaviour. This work provides crucial information on how distinct attentional abilities can be observed in bilinguals as a function of age and L2 proficiency.

Topic Area: Control, Selection, and Executive Processes

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