Aging affects steaks more than knives: Evidence that the processing of words related to motor skills is relatively spared in aging
Reifegerste, J., Meyer, A. S., Zwitserlood, P., & Ullman, M. T.
Aging affects steaks more than knives: Evidence that the processing of words related to motor skills is relatively spared in aging. Brain and Language, 218
: 104941. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2021.104941.
Lexical-processing declines are a hallmark of aging. However, the extent of these declines may vary as a function of different factors. Motivated by findings from neurodegenerative diseases and healthy aging, we tested whether ‘motor-relatedness’ (the degree to which words are associated with particular human body movements) might moderate such declines. We investigated this question by examining data from three experiments. The experiments were carried out in different languages (Dutch, German, English) using different tasks (lexical decision, picture naming), and probed verbs and nouns, in all cases controlling for potentially confounding variables (e.g., frequency, age-of-acquisition, imageability). Whereas ‘non-motor words’ (e.g., steak) showed age-related performance decreases in all three experiments, ‘motor words’ (e.g., knife) yielded either smaller decreases (in one experiment) or no decreases (in two experiments). The findings suggest that motor-relatedness can attenuate or even prevent age-related lexical declines, perhaps due to the relative sparing of neural circuitry underlying such words.