Age-Related Changes in Attentional Refocusing during Simulated Driving

Eleanor Huizeling*, Hongfang Wang, Carol Holland*, Klaus Kessler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We recently reported that refocusing attention between temporal and spatial tasks becomes more difficult with increasing age, which could impair daily activities such as driving (Callaghan et al., 2017). Here, we investigated the extent to which difficulties in refocusing attention extend to naturalistic settings such as simulated driving. A total of 118 participants in five age groups (18−30; 40−49; 50−59; 60−69; 70−91 years) were compared during continuous simulated driving, where they repeatedly switched from braking due to traffic ahead (a spatially focal yet temporally complex task) to reading a motorway road sign (a spatially more distributed task). Sequential-Task (switching) performance was compared to Single-Task performance (road sign only) to calculate age-related switch-costs. Electroencephalography was recorded in 34 participants (17 in the 18−30 and 17 in the 60+ years groups) to explore age-related changes in the neural oscillatory signatures of refocusing attention while driving. We indeed observed age-related impairments in attentional refocusing, evidenced by increased switch-costs in response times and by deficient modulation of theta and alpha frequencies. Our findings highlight virtual reality (VR) and Neuro-VR as important methodologies for future psychological and gerontological research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number530
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number8
Early online date7 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited

Funding: This research was supported by funding from The Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, and the School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University.


  • Ageing
  • Attention
  • Neural oscillations
  • Neuro-VR
  • Simulated driving
  • Switching costs


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