Effects of aging in multisensory integration: A systematic review

Alix L. de Dieuleveult* (Corresponding Author), Petra C. Siemonsma, Jan B.F. van Erp, Anne Marie Brouwer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

    82 Citations (Scopus)
    44 Downloads (Pure)


    Multisensory integration (MSI) is the integration by the brain of environmental information acquired through more than one sense. Accurate MSI has been shown to be a key component of successful aging and to be crucial for processes underlying activities of daily living (ADLs). Problems in MSI could prevent older adults (OA) to age in place and live independently. However, there is a need to know how to assess changes in MSI in individuals. This systematic review provides an overview of tests assessing the effect of age on MSI in the healthy elderly population (aged 60 years and older). A literature search was done in Scopus. Articles from the earliest records available to January 20, 2016, were eligible for inclusion if assessing effects of aging on MSI in the healthy elderly population compared to younger adults (YA). These articles were rated for risk of bias with the Newcastle-Ottawa quality assessment. Out of 307 identified research articles, 49 articles were included for final review, describing 69 tests. The review indicated that OA maximize the use of multiple sources of information in comparison to YA (20 studies). In tasks that require more cognitive function, or when participants need to adapt rapidly to a situation, or when a dual task is added to the experiment, OA have problems selecting and integrating information properly as compared to YA (19 studies). Additionally, irrelevant or wrong information (i.e., distractors) has a greater impact on OA than on YA (21 studies). OA failing to weigh sensory information properly, has not been described in previous reviews. Anatomical changes (i.e., reduction of brain volume and differences of brain areas' recruitment) and information processing changes (i.e., general cognitive slowing, inverse effectiveness, larger time window of integration, deficits in attentional control and increased noise at baseline) can only partly explain the differences between OA and YA regarding MSI. Since we have an interest in successful aging and early detection of MSI issues in the elderly population, the identified tests form a good starting point to develop a clinically useful toolkit to assess MSI in healthy OA.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number80
    JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
    Issue numberMAR
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2017


    • Activities of daily living
    • Aging
    • Elderly
    • Multimodal
    • Multisensory integration


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