The number of older adults is estimated to double from 52 million to 95 million by 2060. Approximately 80-85% of older adults are diagnosed with a chronic health condition. Many of these chronic health conditions are influenced by diet and exercise, suggesting improved diet and eating behaviors could improve health-related outcomes. One factor that might improve dietary habits in older adults is food-related inhibitory control. We tested whether food-related inhibitory control, using behavioral (response time, error rate) and scalp-recorded event-related potential (ERP; N2 and P3 components) measures of food-related inhibitory control differed between younger and older adults over age 55. Fifty-nine older adults (31 females [52.5%], Mage=64, SDage=7.5) and 114 younger adults (82 females [71.9%], Mage=20.8) completed two go/no-go tasks, one inhibiting to high-calorie stimuli and one inhibiting to low-calorie stimuli, while electroencephalogram (EEG) data were recorded. Older adults had slower overall response times than younger adults, but this was not specific to either food task. There was not a significant difference for accuracy between younger and older adults, but both groups' accuracy and response times were significantly improved during the high-calorie task than the low-calorie task. For both the N2 and P3 ERP components, younger adults had greater amplitude than older adults, but this effect was not food-specific, reflecting overall generalized lower inhibitory processing in older adults. Of note, P3 amplitude for the younger adults demonstrated a specific food-related effect (greater P3 amplitude for high-calorie no-go) that was not present for older adults. Findings support previous research demonstrating age related differences in inhibitory control though those differences may not be specific to inhibiting to high-calorie foods.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





food-related inhibitory control, cognitive aging, older adults, N2 ERP, P3 ERP