Examination of attention networks in older adults age seventy and above
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Attention is an integral part of information processing that is subject to cognitive changes related to aging. The Attention Networks Test (ANT) measures three attention networks (alerting, orienting and executive attention). The reliability and validity of the attention networks have been established in children and adults (Posner & Rottbart, 2007) but not in older adults. This study aimed to determine the reliability and validity of the three networks in elders age 70 and older. Participants were 50 non-demented individuals (mean age = 81yrs; 54% female) enrolled in the Einstein Aging Study. In addition to the original ANT, a modified version that varied only in the height and luminance of the target stimuli was administered to address concerns that poor vision in aging may affect ANT performance. The original and modified versions were administered in alternating order with a 15-minute walking exercise between tasks. Attention networks calculation and validation were examined using previously established methods for the ANT (Fan, McCandliss, Sommer, Raz & Posner, 2002). Accuracy was above 95% for the original and modified versions. Computation of the networks yielded significant effects for alerting, orienting and executive attention on both ANT versions. The non-significant correlations between the networks in the original and modified versions suggested that attention networks were independent. Executive network validity was further examined by correlations with a clinically relevant neuropsychological measure. Stroop Interference was significantly correlated with executive attention on the original (r=-.364) and modified (r=-.425) ANT. Attention networks estimating the effects of alerting, orienting and executive attention were identified in aging. ANT was found to be a reliable and valid measure of attention networks in older adults.