Negative affect influences electrophysiological markers of visual working memory in mildly stressed older adults

Tab R. Memmott, Daniel Klee, Barry Oken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Negative affect (NA) has been related to lower working memory performance across all ages, including in older adults where it has been suggested as a marker for later cognitive impairments. However, NA-related decreases in working memory performance have not been shown in a full range of working memory paradigms or fully explored in the context of electrophysiological measures of working memory. We examined the impact of NA and related markers on an electroencephalography (EEG) marker of visual working memory (VWM) capacity, referred to as the contralateral delay activity (CDA). This study analyzed data collected from 48 cognitively intact, mildly stressed older adults (50-74 years old) who completed a VWM change-detection task to elicit the CDA, as well as self-rated measures of affect, stress, neuroticism and depression. Regression analyses revealed significant CDA amplitude effects with NA across task conditions. These results indicate a reduction in a physiological measure of VWM capacity in high-NA participants. These results are of interest as NA has been associated with a greater risk for worse cognitive function, detrimental health outcomes and reduced quality of life in older adults. This research adds to our understanding of how NA impacts older adults and gives a potential biomarker for successful intervention outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number148
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 22 2018


  • Aging
  • Contralateral delay activity
  • EEG
  • Event-related potentials
  • Memory
  • Negative affect
  • Visual working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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