Examining the effect of age on auditory enhancement of visual-temporal attention
The temporal properties of visual selective attention change with age as reflected in a longer and deeper impairment of identifying the second of two targets in a rapid stream of visual distracters. In younger adults, identification rates for both targets can be improved by a simultaneous, task irrelevant sound. Research in response time tasks has shown that older participants can benefit more from bimodal stimulation than younger subjects. Here we examine whether this facilitation in older participants can also be found in a setting in which relevant items need to be identified while competing rapid visual input needs to be ignored. The results of the first experiment indicated a trend in the predicted direction, but only for the first target. The second experiment tested whether increasing the probability of a sound to coincide with a target would modulate this trend. As before, the sound improved target identification rates, but an effect of age on the effectiveness of the sound was not evident. These results indicate that audiovisual integration can provide a useful means for improving visual temporal attention also in older adults, but that the gain is not larger in older than in younger adults.