Scurry, A. N., Vercillo, T., Nicholson, A., Webster, M., & Jiang, F.
(2019). Aging impairs temporal sensitivity, but not perceptual synchrony, across modalities. Multisensory Research, 32(8), 671-692. doi:10.1163/22134808-20191343.
Encoding the temporal properties of external signals that comprise multimodal events is a major factor guiding everyday experience. However, during the natural aging process, impairments to sensory processing can profoundly affect multimodal temporal perception. Various mechanisms can contribute to temporal perception, and thus it is imperative to understand how each can be affected by age. In the current study, using three different temporal order judgement tasks (unisensory, multisensory, and sensorimotor), we investigated the effects of age on two separate temporal processes: synchronization and integration of multiple signals. These two processes rely on different aspects of temporal information, either the temporal alignment of processed signals or the integration/segregation of signals arising from different modalities, respectively. Results showed that the ability to integrate/segregate multiple signals decreased with age regardless of the task, and that the magnitude of such impairment correlated across tasks, suggesting a widespread mechanism affected by age. In contrast, perceptual synchrony remained stable with age, revealing a distinct intact mechanism. Overall, results from this study suggest that aging has differential effects on temporal processing, and general impairments with aging may impact global temporal sensitivity while context-dependent processes remain unaffected.