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Age-related decline in cognitive control: the role of fluid intelligence and processing speed

Marine Manard12, Delphine Carabin2, Mathieu Jaspar12 and Fabienne Collette123*

Author Affiliations

1 Cyclotron Research Centre, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

2 Department of Psychology: Cognition and Behavior, University of Liège, Boulevard du Rectorat 3, Bâtiment B33, B-4000 Liège, Belgium

3 Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS), 1000 Brussels, Belgium

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-7

Published: 8 January 2014



Research on cognitive control suggests an age-related decline in proactive control abilities whereas reactive control seems to remain intact. However, the reason of the differential age effect on cognitive control efficiency is still unclear. This study investigated the potential influence of fluid intelligence and processing speed on the selective age-related decline in proactive control. Eighty young and 80 healthy older adults were included in this study. The participants were submitted to a working memory recognition paradigm, assessing proactive and reactive cognitive control by manipulating the interference level across items.


Repeated measures ANOVAs and hierarchical linear regressions indicated that the ability to appropriately use cognitive control processes during aging seems to be at least partially affected by the amount of available cognitive resources (assessed by fluid intelligence and processing speed abilities).


This study highlights the potential role of cognitive resources on the selective age-related decline in proactive control, suggesting the importance of a more exhaustive approach considering the confounding variables during cognitive control assessment.

Cognitive control; Aging; Fluid intelligence; Processing speed; Working memory