Dual task performance in normal aging: A comparison of choice reaction time tasks

Eleftheria Vaportzis, Nellie Georgiou-Karistianis, Julie Stout

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    24 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This study examined dual task performance in 28 younger (18-30 years) and 28 older (>60 years) adults using two sets of choice reaction time (RT) tasks paired with digit tasks. Set one paired simple choice RT with digit forward; set two paired complex choice RT with digit backward. Each task within each set had easy and hard conditions. For the simple choice RT, participants viewed single letters and pressed a specified keyboard key if the letter was X or Z or a different key for other letters (easy). For the hard condition, there were 4 target letters (X, Z, O, Y). Digit forward consisted of 4 (easy) or 5 (hard) digits. For the complex choice RT, participants viewed 4 X 4 matrices of Xs and Os, and indicated whether four Xs (easy) or four Xs or four Os (hard) appeared in a row. Digit backward consisted of 3 (easy) or 4 (hard) digits. Within each set, participants performed every possible combination of tasks. We found that in the simple choice RT tasks older adults were significantly slower than, but as accurate as younger adults. In the complex choice RT tasks, older adults were significantly less accurate, but as fast as younger adults. For both age groups and both dual task sets, RT decreased and error rates increased with greater task difficulty. Older adults had greater dual task costs for error rates in the simple choice RT, whereas in the complex choice RT, it was the younger group that had greater dual task costs. Findings suggest that younger and older adults may adopt differential behavioral strategies depending on complexity and difficulty of dual tasks.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e60265
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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