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Aging is accompanied by frontal lobe and non-dominant hemisphere recruitment that supports executive functioning, such as inhibitory control, which is crucial to all cognitive functions. However, the spatio-temporal sequence of processing underlying successful inhibition and how it changes with age is understudied. Thus, we capitalized on the temporal precision of event-related potentials (ERPs) to assess the functional lateralization of N200 (conflict monitoring) and P300 (inhibitory performance evaluation) in young and healthy older adults during comparably performed successful stop-signal inhibition. We additionally used temporal principal components analysis (PCA) to further interrogate the continuous spatio-temporal dynamics underlying N200 and P300 activation for each group. Young adults demonstrated left hemisphere-dominant N200, while older adults demonstrated overall larger amplitudes and right hemisphere dominance. N200 activation was explained by a single PCA factor in both age groups, but with a more anterior scalp distribution in older adults. The P300 amplitudes were larger in the right hemisphere in young, but bilateral in old, with old larger than young in the left hemisphere. P300 was also explained by a single factor in young adults but by two factors in older adults, including distinct parieto-occipital and anterior activation. These findings highlight the differential functional asymmetries of conflict monitoring (N200) and inhibitory evaluation and adaptation (P300) processes and further illuminate unique age-related spatio-temporal recruitment patterns. Older adults demonstrated lateralized recruitment during conflict processing and bilateral recruitment during evaluation and adaptation, with anterior recruitment common to both processes. These fine-grained analyses are critically important for more precise understanding of age-related compensatory activation.


Published version. Symmetry, Vol. 13, No. 2323 (2021). DOI. This article is © 2021 The Authors. Licensee MDPI. Used with permission. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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