Abstract

Research has revealed age-related decrements in performance on a variety of attention-related tasks, including sustained attention, selective attention, and inhibition tasks (e.g., [Armstrong, C. (1997). Selective versus sustained attention: A continuous performance test revisited. Clinical Neuropsychologist, 11(1), 18–33; Chao, L. L. & Knight, R. T. (1997). Prefrontal deficits in attention and inhibitory control with aging. Cerebral Cortex, 7(1), 63–69; Deaton, J. E., & Parasuraman, R. (1993). Sensory and cognitive vigilance: Effects of age on performance and subjective workload. Human Performance, 6(1), 71–97]). The continuous performance test (CPT) is a well-recognized measure of sustained attention and impulsivity [Riccio, C. A., Reynolds, C. R., & Lowe, P. (2001). Clinical applications of continuous performance tests: Measuring attention and impulsive responding in children and adults. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.]. In the following study, the influence of age on CPT performance was assessed. Thirty-two healthy adults (age 19–82) completed a brief K–A version of the CPT under “clear” and “noisy” trial conditions. Under both conditions, participants’ accuracy on the CPT task decreased with age. In both conditions, the number of commission errors (including false alarms) increased significantly as age increased. This relationship differed with omission errors, as age accounted for a significant proportion of variance in omission errors under the noisy condition alone. Overall, this study provides evidence for age-related differences in performance on a brief CPT, particularly for deficits in selective response inhibition.