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Slide Slam E13

Older people are not better at reading between the lines: Aging effect of conversational implicature (CI) processing

Slide Slam Session E, Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 5:30 - 7:30 pm PDT Log In to set Timezone

Feipeng Chen1, Shuguang Yang1, Jia Deng1, Zude Zhu1; 1Jiangsu Normal University, School of Linguistic Sciences and Arts

Much attention has been paid age-related decline in semantic and syntactic processes; however, it remains unclear whether there is age-related alteration in comprehension of conversational implicature (CI). In the present study, 43 healthy native Chinese speakers (21 younger adults and 22 older adults) were asked to read Direct Expressions (DIR), Indirect Expressions (INDIR), and Face-Saving Expressions (FS) dialogues during fMRI scanning, followed by T1 and DTI scanning. While worse behavioral performance was found in the older group than in the younger group, higher vocabularies have led to shorter RTs for the elderly only. The fMRI results showed age effect on CI parametric modulation in the left frontal pole, the medial prefrontal cortex, the left middle frontal gyrus, and the left middle temporal gyrus, with decline of adaptive response was found in the older group than in the younger group. Correlation analysis revealed that higher activation of the left frontal pole and right middle temporal gyrus compensated the behavior by leading to shorter RTs, while higher activation in the left caudate and left middle frontal gyrus showed lower neural efficiency by leading to longer RTs. The preserved functional adaptive response positively correlated with better gray matter volume in the left frontal pole, left middle frontal gyrus, and right inferior frontal gyrus in the elderly. We also found that functional adaptive response of the left frontal regions positively associated with the fractional anisotropy (FA) of the left corona radiata and the genu of the corpus callosum for the younger adults but disappeared in the elderly. In summary, even richer in verbal and social experience, the elderly still showed a significant decline in CI comprehension. In addition, the results showed that age-related reductions in efficiency and successful compensation could co-exist in the same older adults in a given task, but not exclusive. The present study also suggests that minor brain function adaption in the elderly is associated with age-related disrupted in brain structures.

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