Cognition and Aging Research Lab

The Cognition Lab focuses on the question of why attention and cognition changes as we age.

Our current project examines the role of neural noise as an explanation of the general slowing of cognitive processes as adults age. The theory is that as we age neural circuitry in the brain begins to break down to some degree, and as a result, neural connections may be lost resulting in slower cognitive processing speeds. Recent work in our lab has focused on mechanisms allowing older adults to suppress neural noise. Using visual search paradigms, we have recently shown that older adults can enhance their search efficiency for targets by using top-down knowledge of a target's features to guide search to that target. Specifically, it seems that top-down processes may enable older adults to enhance target signal, while at the same time inhibiting distractor noise.

Our lab has two computers with large LCD displays to run our visual search experiments. We also have E-Prime psychological experiment software for programming the presentation of stimuli and collecting reaction times at the millisecond level. New to the lab this year is an eye-tracking system capable of tracking eye-movements during static displays or video. SAS and SPSS are available for data analysis.

If you are interested in working in our lab or would like to volunteer for an experiment, please contact Prof. Whiting.


Johnson, D.R., & Whiting, W.L. (in press). Detecting subtle expressions: Older adults demonstrate automatic and controlled positive response bias in emotional perception. Psychology and Aging.

Costello, M.C., Madden, D.J., Mitroff, S.R., & Whiting, W.L. (2010). Age-Related Decline of Visual Processing Components in Change Detection. Psychology and Aging, 25, 356-368.

Whiting, W.L., Madden, D.J., & Babcock, K. (2007). Overriding Age Differences in Attentional Capture with Top-down Processing. Psychology and Aging, 22, 223-232.

Whiting, W.L. (2007). Memory in Psychology. In W.A. Darity (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, (2nd ed.). Thompson Press.

Madden, D.J., Spaniol, J., Bucur, B., & Whiting, W.L. (2007). Age-related increase in top-down activation of visual features. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 644-651.

Madden, D.J., Spaniol, J., Whiting, W.L., Bucur, B., Provenzale, J.M., Cabeza, R., White, L., & Huettel, S.A. (2007). Adult age differences in the functional neuroanatomy of visual attention: A combined fMRI and DTI study. Neurobiology of Aging, 28, 459-476.

Whiting, W.L., Madden, D.J., Pierce, T.W., & Allen, P.A. (2005). Searching From the Top Down: Aging and Attentional Guidance During Singleton Detection. In P. Rabbitt (Ed.), Cognitive Gerontology: Cognitive Change in Old Age (pp 72-97). New York: Psychology Press.

Madden, D.J., Whiting, W.L., Spaniol, J., & Burcur, B. (2005). Adult Age Differences in the Implicit and Explicit Components of Top-Down Attentional Guidance During Visual Search. Psychology and Aging, 20, 317-329.

Whiting, W.L., Madden, D.J., Pierce, T.W., & Allen, P.A. (2005). Searching From the Top Down: Aging and Attentional Guidance During Singleton Detection. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58A, 72-97.

Madden, D.J., Whiting, W.L., & Huettel, S.A. (2005). Age-Related Changes in Neural Activity During Visual Perception and Attention. In R. Cabeza, L. Nyberg, & D. C. Park (Eds.), Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging (pp. 157-185). New York: Oxford University Press.

Kealey, S.M., Kim, Y.J., Whiting, W.L., Madden, D.J., & Provenzale, J.M. (2005). Determination of Multiple Sclerosis Plaque Size with Diffusion-Tensor MR Imaging: Comparison Study with Healthy Volunteers. Radiology, 236, 615-620.

Madden, D.J., Whiting, W.L., Huettel, S.A., White, L.E., MacFall, J.R., & Provenzale, J.M. (2004). Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Adult Age Differences in Cerebral White Matter: Relation to Response Time. NeuroImage, 21, 1174-1181.

Madden, D.J., Whiting, W.L., Cabeza, R., & Huettel, S.A. (2004). Age-Related Preservation in Top-Down Attentional Guidance During Visual Search. Psychology and Aging, 19, 304-309.

Madden, D.J., Whiting, W.L., Provenzale, J.M., & Huettel, S.A. (2004). Age-related changes in neural activity during visual target detection measured by fMRI. Cerebral Cortex, 14, 143-155.

Madden, D. J., & Whiting, W. L. (2004) Age-related changes in visual attention. In P. T. Costa & I. C. Siegler (Eds.), Recent Advances in Psychology and Aging (pp. 41-88). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Whiting, W. L. (2003). Adult age differences in divided attention: Effects of elaboration. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 10, 141-157.

Whiting, W.L., Madden, D.J., Langley, L.K., Denny, L.L., Turkington, T.G., Provenzale, J.M., Hawk, T.C., & Coleman, R.E. (2003). Lexical and sublexical components of age-related changes in neural activation during visual word identification. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,15, 475-487.

Madden, D.J., Langley, L.K., Thurston, R.C., Whiting, W.L., & Blumenthal, J.A. (2003). Interaction of Blood Pressure and Adult Age in Memory Search and Visual Search Performance. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 10, 241-254.

Smith, A. D., Park, D. C., Earles, J. L. K., Shaw, R., & Whiting, W. L. (1998). Age differences in context integration in memory. Psychology and Aging, 13, 21-28.

Whiting, W. L., & Smith, A. D. (1997). Differential age-related processing resource limitations in recall and recognition tasks. Psychology and Aging, 12, 216-224.