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Abstract

Multisensory information typically confers neural and behavioural advantages over unisensory information. We used a simple audio-visual detection task to compare healthy young (HY), healthy older (HO) and mild-cognitive impairment (MCI) individuals. Neuropsychological tests assessed individuals’ learning and memory impairments. First, we provide much-needed clarification regarding the presence of enhanced multisensory benefits in both healthily and abnormally aging individuals. The pattern of sensory dominance shifted with healthy and abnormal aging to favour a propensity of auditory-dominant behaviour (i.e., detecting sounds faster than flashes). Notably, multisensory benefits were larger only in healthy older than younger individuals who were also visually-dominant. Second, we demonstrate that the multisensory detection task offers benefits as a time- and resourceeconomic MCI screening tool. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis demonstrated that MCI diagnosis could be reliably achieved based on the combination of indices of multisensory integration together with indices of sensory dominance. Our findings showcase the importance of sensory profiles in determining multisensory benefits in healthy and abnormal aging. Crucially, our findings open an exciting possibility for multisensory detection tasks to be used as a cost-effective screening tool. These findings clarify relationships between multisensory and memory functions in aging, while offering new avenues for improved dementia diagnostics.

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