Reduced ERPs and theta oscillations underlie working memory deficits in Toxoplasma gondii infected seniors
Gajewski, P. D., Falkenstein, M., Hengstler, J. G., Golka, K.
Psychology 2016; 120: 35-45.
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Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most widespread infections in humans. Recent studies give evidence for memory deficits in infected older adults. To investigate working memory dysfunction in infected elderly, a double-blinded electrophysiological study was conducted. 84 persons derived from a sample of 131 healthy participants with the mean age of 70 years were assigned to two groups of 42 non-infected and 42 infected individuals. The outcome measures were behavioral performance, target and response-related ERPs, and time-frequency wavelets during performance in a n-back working-memory task. The infected individuals showed a reduced rate of detected targets and diminished P3b amplitude both in target-locked as well as response-locked data compared to the non-infected group. Time-frequency decomposition of the EEG-signals revealed lower evoked power in the theta frequency range in the target-locked as well as in the response-locked data in infected individuals. The reported effects were comparable with differences between healthy young and old adults described previously. Taking together, the reduced working-memory performance accompanied by an attenuated P3b and frontal theta activity may suggest neurotransmitter imbalance like dopamine and norepinephrine in T. gondii infected individuals. In face of a high prevalence of T. gondii infection and the increasing ratio of older population their accelerated memory decline may have substantial socioeconomic consequences.