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Slide Slam Q9

Cognitive control mediates age-related changes in flexible anticipatory processing during listening

Slide Slam Session Q, Friday, October 8, 2021, 12:00 - 2:30 pm PDT Log In to set Timezone

Shruti Dave1, Trevor Brothers2, Liv Hoversten3, Matthew Traxler4, Tamara Swaab4; 1Northwestern University, 2Tufts University, 3University of California Santa Cruz, 4University of California Davis

Effective listening comprehension not only requires processing local linguistic input, but also necessitates incorporating contextual cues available in the global communicative environment. Local sentence processing can be facilitated by pre-activation of likely upcoming linguistic input, or predictive processing. Recent evidence suggests that young adults can flexibly adapt local predictive processes based on cues provided by the global communicative environment, such as the reliability of specific speakers. Whether older comprehenders can also flexibly adapt to global contextual cues is currently unknown. Moreover, it is unclear whether the underlying mechanisms supporting local predictive processing differ from those supporting adaptation to global contextual cues. Critically, it is unclear whether these mechanisms change as a function of typical aging. In 40 young and 40 older adults, we examined the flexibility of prediction by presenting sentences from speakers whose utterances were typically more or less predictable (i.e., reliable speakers who produced expected words 80% of the time, versus unreliable speakers who produced expected words 20% of the time). For young listeners, global speaker reliability cues modulated neural effects of local predictability on the N400. In contrast, older adults, on average, did not show global modulation of local processing. Importantly, however, cognitive control (i.e., Stroop interference effects) mediated age-related reductions in sensitivity to the reliability of the speaker. Both young and older adults with high cognitive control showed greater N400 effects of predictability during sentences produced by a reliable speaker, suggesting that cognitive control is required to regulate the strength of top-down predictions based on global contextual information. Critically, cognitive control predicted sensitivity to global speaker-specific information but not local predictability cues, suggesting that predictive processing in local sentence contexts may be supported by separable neural mechanisms from adaptation of prediction as a function of global context. These results have important implications for interpreting age-related change in predictive processing, and for drawing more generalized conclusions regarding domain-general versus language-specific accounts of prediction.

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