Aging and higher level processing - a thematic session

Conference attendees at HEAL 2014 (Cernobbio, Italy, summer 2014) wasted no time in tackling the more technical topics with the organization on the first day of an interesting session on higher level processing in aging. Participants included clinical experts and researchers, as well as academics from several different countries.

In the afternoon, with Kelly Tremblay as moderator, the session included speakers representing various research groups who provided input from their perspectives. Edward Bartlett and Aravindakshan Parthasarathy from West Lafayette, Indiana (USA) proposed a multilevel analysis of age-related declines in auditory temporal processing. Tine Goossens, Charlotte Vercammen, Michael Hofmann, Jan Wouters and Astrid van Wieringen opened a discussion on the basis of their study concerning the finding that aging differentially affects neural temporal processing at the subcortical and cortical levels. Limor Lavie from Israel studied the semantic effects of dichotic listening in older adults. In a research study conducted by Annalisa Setti, William Shanahan, Michael O’Tool and Rose Anne Kenny from Dublin, Ireland, cognitive memory tests and self-reported memory efficiency were found to be associated with self-reports of hearing problems in a sample of middle-aged and older adults that was representative of the population in general. How age and audibility affect memory task performance in people with normal hearing was the topic of another presentation by Astrid van Wieringen, Charlotte Vercammen, Tine Goossens and Jan Wouters, looking at the issue from a different angle. The contribution by Katrien Vermeire and a group of colleagues from Thomas More University College in Belgium centered around the differential effect of aging on verbal and visuospatial working memory. Roberta DiDonato, Aimée Surprenant and Ian Neath from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, conducted research on how age-related hearing loss and cognitive abilities interact and influence memory performance. Lastly, the final complex topic involved objective measures of speech intelligibility in sensorineural hearing loss, presented by Gabriella Tognola, Stefano Moriconi and Emma Chiaramello.

Multilevel analysis of age-related declines in auditory temporal processing

The authors of this study, Edward Bartlett and Aravindakshan Parthasarathy, are from Purdue University in West Lafayette (USA), and more specifically from the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. Edward Bartlett also works at the Department of Biological Sciences.

Studies of the aging auditory system in humans provide important information on perceptual difficulties and use neuroimaging, non-invasive neurophysiological and genetic findings to understand and improve hearing difficulties. Animal studies complement studies in humans and are able to link population neurophysiological data with cellular level physiological and anatomical data to provide mechanistic hypotheses for age-related decline and possible therapeutic avenues. In age-related hearing loss, it is now known and well-studied that cochlear function degrades, causing a loss of hearing sensitivity. However, changes in the central auditory pathways are less well understood.