Age-related slowing of response selection and production in a visual choice reaction time task

David L Woods, John M. Wyma, E. William Yund, Timothy J. Herron, Bruce R Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Aging is associated with delayed processing in choice reaction time (CRT) tasks, but the processing stages most impacted by aging have not been clearly identified. Here, we analyzed CRT latencies in a computerized serial visual feature-conjunction task. Participants responded to a target letter (probability 40%) by pressing one mouse button, and responded to distractor letters differing either in color, shape, or both features from the target (probabilities 20% each) by pressing the other mouse button. Stimuli were presented randomly to the left and right visual fields and stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) were adaptively reduced following correct responses using a staircase procedure. In Experiment 1, we tested 1466 participants who ranged in age from 18 to 65 years. CRT latencies increased significantly with age (r = 0.47, 2.80 ms/year). Central processing time (CPT), isolated by subtracting simple reaction times (SRT) (obtained in a companion experiment performed on the same day) from CRT latencies, accounted for more than 80% of age-related CRT slowing, with most of the remaining increase in latency due to slowed motor responses. Participants were faster and more accurate when the stimulus location was spatially compatible with the mouse button used for responding, and this effect increased slightly with age. Participants took longer to respond to distractors with target color or shape than to distractors with no target features. However, the additional time needed to discriminate the more target-like distractors did not increase with age. In Experiment 2, we replicated the findings of Experiment 1 in a second population of 178 participants (ages 18–82 years). CRT latencies did not differ significantly in the two experiments, and similar effects of age, distractor similarity, and stimulus-response spatial compatibility were found. The results suggest that the age-related slowing in visual CRT latencies is largely due to delays in response selection and production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberAPR
StatePublished - Apr 23 2015


  • Aging
  • Executive function
  • Handedness
  • Hemisphere
  • Motor
  • Processing speed
  • Replication
  • Timing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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