The effect of multisensory cues on attention in aging

Jeannette R. Mahoney, Joe Verghese, Kristina Dumas, Cuiling Wang, Roee Holtzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The attention network test (ANT) assesses the effect of alerting and orienting cues on a visual flanker task measuring executive attention. Previous findings revealed that older adults demonstrate greater reaction times (RT) benefits when provided with visual orienting cues that offer both spatial and temporal information of an ensuing target. Given the overlap of neural substrates and networks involved in multisensory processing and cueing (i.e., alerting and orienting), an investigation of multisensory cueing effects on RT was warranted. The current study was designed to determine whether participants, both old and young, benefited from receiving multisensory alerting and orienting cues. Eighteen young (M=19.17 years; 45% female) and eighteen old (M=76.44 years; 61% female) individuals that were determined to be non-demented and without any medical or psychiatric conditions that would affect their performance were included. Results revealed main effects for the executive attention and orienting networks, but not for the alerting network. In terms of orienting, both old and young adults demonstrated significant orienting effects for auditory-somatosensory (AS), auditory-visual (AV), and visual-somatosensory (VS) cues. RT benefits of multisensory compared to unisensory orienting effects differed by cue type and age group; younger adults demonstrated greater RT benefits for AS orienting cues whereas older adults demonstrated greater RT benefits for AV orienting cues. Both groups, however, demonstrated significant RT benefits for multisensory VS orienting cues. These findings provide evidence for the facilitative effect of multisensory orienting cues, and not multisensory alerting cues, in old and young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalBrain research
StatePublished - Sep 7 2012


  • Aging
  • Alerting
  • Executive attention
  • Multisensory integration
  • Orienting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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