, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 572-582

Aging and time-sharing aspects of executive control

Abstract

A particularly important aspect of executive functioning involves the ability to coordinate two simultaneous activities. The role of this aspect of executive functioning in adult-age differences in cognitive performance was examined in a study involving 150 adults between 20 and 91 years of age who performed the same visual—motor tracking task with three different primary tasks. The participants also performed several additional cognitive tasks that allowed examination of the relation of time-sharing efficiency to other types of cognitive functioning. The results were consistent with the existence of a distinct timesharing ability because the time-sharing costs in the three dual-task combinations were significantly correlated with one another but only weakly correlated with other cognitive variables. Increased age was associated with reductions in time-sharing ability, and greater efficiency in performing two tasks at once was associated with better performance on tasks assessing spatial, reasoning, and memory abilities. Although this pattern is what one would expect if executive processes contribute to age differences in cognitive functioning, the effects were smaller than those associated with a perceptual speed construct.