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Age gradient of the mechanism of stimulus-response conflict cost was investigated in a population-based representative sample of 291 individuals, covering the age range from 6 to 89 years. Stimulus-response conflict cost, indicated by the amount of additional processing time required when there is a conflict between stimulus and response options, follows a U-shaped function across the lifespan. Lifespan age gradient of conflict cost parallels closely those of processing fluctuation and fluid intelligence. Individuals at both ends of the lifespan displayed a greater amount of processing fluctuation and at the same time a larger amount of conflict cost and a lower level of fluid intelligence. After controlling for chronological age and baseline processing speed, conflict cost continues to correlate significantly with fluid intelligence in adulthood and old age and with processing fluctuation in old age. The relation between processing fluctuation and conflict cost in old age lends further support for the neuromodulation of neuronal noise theory of cognitive aging as well as for theories of dopaminergic modulation of conflict monitoring.
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- Lifespan development of stimulus-response conflict cost: similarities and differences between maturation and senescence