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Preserved fine-tuning of face perception and memory : evidence from the own-race bias in high- and low-performing older adults.

Komes, J. and Schweinberger, S.R. and Wiese, H. (2014) 'Preserved fine-tuning of face perception and memory : evidence from the own-race bias in high- and low-performing older adults.', Frontiers in aging neuroscience., 6 . p. 60.


Previous research suggests specific deficits in face perception and memory in older adults, which could reflect a dedifferentiation in the context of a general broadening of cognitive architecture with advanced age. Such dedifferentiation could manifest in a less specialized face processing system. A promising tool to investigate the fine-tuning of face processing in older age is the own-race bias (ORB), a phenomenon reflecting more accurate memory for own-relative to other-race faces, which is related to an expertise-based specialization of early perceptual stages. To investigate whether poor face memory in older age is accompanied by reduced expertise-based specialization of face processing, we assessed event-related brain potential correlates of the ORB in high- vs. low-performing older adults (mean age = 69 years; N = 24 per group). Intriguingly, both older groups demonstrated an equivalent pattern of a behavioral ORB, and a parallel increase in N170 for other-race faces, reflecting less efficient early perceptual processing for this face category. Group differences only emerged independent of face ethnicity: whereas low-performers exhibited a right-lateralized N170, high-performers showed a more bilateral response. This finding may suggest a compensatory mechanism counteracting age-related decline in face perception enabling more efficient encoding into memory in high performers. Overall, our results demonstrate that even a less efficient face processing system in older adults can exhibit preserved expertise-related specialization toward own-race faces.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Face perception, Face memory, Cognitive aging, N170, Own-race bias, Expertise.
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Publisher statement:Copyright © 2014 Komes, Schweinberger and Wiese. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Date accepted:18 March 2014
Date deposited:19 November 2014
Date of first online publication:April 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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