Aging Effects on Early-Stage Face Perception: An ERP Study

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We compared early stages of face processing in young and older participants as indexed by ERPs elicited by faces and non-face stimuli presented in upright and inverted orientations. The P1 and N170 components were larger in older than in young participants. However, the early distinction between stimulus categories as reflected by N170 face was similar across groups. Face inversion increased and delayed the N170 peak in the younger group while in older participants inversion delayed the N170 peak but had no effect on amplitude. The N170 amplitude was right-lateralized in the young, but not in the older group. Yet, the difference between the N170 elicited by faces and non-face stimuli was similarly right-lateralized in both groups. These data suggest that detection of faces and their streaming to face-characteristic structural encoding is not altered by age. In contrast, the absence of face-inversion effects on N170 amplitudes in the elderly suggest that face individuation, which is probably the default strategy in younger people, might not be attempted by default in older people, at least when they look at young faces.



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