May 12

Cognitive Aging 2012 (Atlanta, GA)

Working memory intervention training in young and older adults

Gigler, K.L. & Reber, P.J.

Cognitive training to slow or reverse age-related cognitive decline is based on the premise that core cognitive functions can be strengthened by challenging, repetitive practice. A good candidate cognitive process for improvement is working memory (WM), which supports effective problem solving, complex language comprehension and encoding into long-term memory; increasing WM capacity may therefore produce gains in these related cognitive functions. Across two experiments, we show the promise of a new Sequential Visuospatial (SeVi) WM task for cognitive training. Each trial of the SeVi task consists of a presentation phase, during which participants see a sequence of moving visual cues and hold a series of response locations in WM, and a response phase in which the series is reproduced. The training is adaptive, increasing the length of presented sequences as performance improves in order to keep training near each individual’s WM span. In Experiment 1, young adult participants completed 10 hour-long training sessions (2000 trials) and not only improved on the SeVi task, but showed transfer via improved measures of long-term memory and processing speed on the CogState assessment battery. In Experiment 2, older adult participants (healthy and MCI) completed 6 45minute-long training sessions (approximately 900 trials). Participants improved significantly on the SeVi task, and reported enjoying the WM training. Transfer to other measures of cognitive function is expected. It is hoped that gains made in training lead not only to transfer to other cognitive functions, but also to improvements in real-world memory performance and quality of life.

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