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Marshall, Amanda C.; Cooper, Nicholas; Rosu, Livia; Kennett, Steffan (2018): Stress-related deficits of older adults' spatial working memory: an EEG investigation of occipital alpha and frontal-midline theta activities. In: Neurobiology of Aging, Vol. 69: pp. 239-248
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Abstract

Studies highlight cumulative life stress as a significant predictor of accelerated cognitive aging. This study paired electrophysiological with behavioral measures to explore how cumulative stress affects attentional and maintenance processes underpinning working memory retention. We collected electroen-cephalographic recordings from 60 individuals (30 older, 30 younger) reporting high or low levels of cumulative stress during the performance of a spatial Sternberg task. We measured mid-occipital alpha (8-12 Hz) and frontal-midline theta (4-6 Hz) as indicators of attentional and maintenance processes. Older, high-stress participants' behavioral performance lay significantly below than that of younger adults and low-stress older individuals. Impaired task performance coincided with reduced event-related synchronization in alpha and theta frequency ranges during memory maintenance. Electrophysiological findings suggest that older adults' reduced performance results from a stress-related impact on their ability to retain a stimulus in working memory and inhibit extraneous information from interfering with maintenance. Our results demonstrate the wide-ranging impact of cumulative stress on cognitive health and provide insight into the functional mechanisms disrupted by its influence.