DeLong, K.A, Groppe, D.M., Urbach, T.P., Kutas, M., Thinking ahead or not? Natural aging and anticipation during reading, Brain and Language, 2012, DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2012.02.006
Despite growing evidence of young adults neurally pre-activating word features during sentence comprehension, less clear is the degree to which this generalizes to older adults. Using ERPs, we tested for linguistic prediction in younger and older readers by means of indefinite articles (a’s and an’s) preceding more and less probable noun continuations. Although both groups exhibited cloze probability-graded noun N400s, only the young showed significant article effects, indicating probabilistic sensitivity to the phonology of anticipated upcoming nouns. Additionally, both age groups exhibited prolonged increased frontal positivities to less probable nouns, although in older adults this effect was prominent only in a subset with high verbal fluency (VF). This ERP positivity to contextual constraint violations offers additional support for prediction in the young. For high VF older adults, the positivity may indicate they, too, engage in some form of linguistic pre-processing when implicitly cued, as may have occurred via the articles.