This article presents an overview of our studies in elderly and Alzheimer patients employing Kimura's dichotic digits paradigm as a measure for left hemispheric predominance for processing language stimuli. In addition to structural brain mechanisms, we demonstrated that attention modulates the direction and degree of ear asymmetry in dichotic listening. Elderly showed increasingly more difficulties focusing attention on the left ear (LE) with advancing age. Alzheimer patients showed severe deficits to allocate attention to the LE, which could result in a right ear advantage. These results may be attributed to a breakdown of the cortical attentional network which is mediated by frontal (inhibitory control of attention) and parietal regions (spatial attention and 'disengagement processes'). Both interhemispheric disconnectivity (callosal atrophy) and intrahemispheric disconnectivity (subcortical white matter lesions) appear to be important factors contributing to these findings.

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Brain and Cognition
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Bouma, A., & Gootjes, L. (2011). Effects of attention on dichotic listening in elderly and patients with dementia of the Alzheimer type. Brain and Cognition, 76(2), 286–293. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2011.02.008