DOI: 10.1044/2023_jslhr-22-00633 ISSN: 1092-4388

Effect of Healthy Aging and Gender on Syntactic Input Processing: A P600 Event-Related Potential Study

Annelien Dorme, Bram Van Oudenhove, Yana Criel, Emma Depuydt, Evelien De Groote, Jara Stalpaert, Eline Huysman, Pieter van Mierlo, Miet De Letter
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


This study aimed to investigate the effect of healthy aging and gender, as well as the interaction, thereof, on syntactic input processing during sentence comprehension. This was achieved through the recording of the P600 event-related potential.


Sixty Flemish (native speakers of Dutch) participants (30 men and 30 women), equally distributed into three age groups (young, middle-aged, and older adults), were subjected to a visually presented word order violation task under simultaneous electro-encephalography recording. The task contained 60 sentences, of which half were grammatical and half contained a word order violation. P600 responses were analyzed for amplitude, latency, topographical distribution, and source localization.


Regarding the effect of healthy aging, no age-related differences were found for the amplitude, onset latency, and topographical distribution of the P600 effect (difference wave). Although aging effects on the P600 effect amplitude were absent, a reduced P600 amplitude in response to both the grammatical and ungrammatical sentences was found, next to a reduced overall degree of source activation in linguistic regions of interest. Also, a reduced behavioral accuracy in response to the word order violation was observed in the older adults group. Regarding the effect of gender, females exhibited a larger P600 effect amplitude and a reduced behavioral accuracy compared to males. No gender-related differences were found for P600 effect onset latency, topographical distribution, and source activation.


While this study demonstrates no effect of aging on the P600 effect, the lower behavioral response and absence of any activation shift argues against functional compensation. Moreover, although increased neural activation in women combined with their reduced behavioral accuracy may indicate the use of different cognitive strategies in men and women, source localization analysis could not objectify this hypothesis.

More from our Archive