Although attention in older adults is an active research area, feature-selective aspects have not yet been explicitly studied. Here we report the results of an exploratory study involving directed changes in feature-selective attention. The stimuli used were two random dot kinematograms (RDKs) of different colours, superimposed and centrally presented. A colour cue with random onset after the beginning of each trial instructed young and older subjects to attend to one of the RDKs and detect short intervals of coherent motion while ignoring analogous motion events in the non-cued RDK. Behavioural data show that older adults could detect motion, but discriminated target from distracter motion less reliably than young adults. The method of frequency tagging allowed us to separate the EEG responses to the attended and ignored stimuli and directly compare steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP) amplitudes elicited by each stimulus before and after cue onset. We found that younger adults show a clear attentional enhancement of SSVEP amplitude in the post-cue interval, while older adults' SSVEP responses to attended and ignored stimuli do not differ. Thus, in situations where attentional selection cannot be spatially resolved, older adults show a deficit in selection that is not shared by young adults.
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- feature-selective attention