The method of loci (MoL) is a complex visuospatial mnemonic strategy. Previous research suggests older adults could potentially benefit from using the MoL, but that it is too attentionally demanding for them to use in practice. We evaluated the hypotheses that training can increase the use of MoL, and that MoL use is associated with better memory.
We analyzed skip patterns on response forms for the Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) in the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE, n=1,401) trial using 5 years of longitudinal follow-up.
At baseline, 2% of participants skipped spaces. Fewer than 2% of control participants skipped spaces at any visit across 5 years, but 25% of memory-trained participants, taught the MoL, did so. Participants who skipped spaces used more serial clustering, a hallmark of the MoL (p<0.001). Trained participants who skipped spaces showed greater memory improvement after training than memory-trained participants who did not skip spaces (Cohen's d=0.84, P=0.007), and did not differ in the subsequent rate of long-term memory decline through up to 5 years of follow-up.
Despite being attentionally demanding, this study suggests that after training, the MoL is used by up to 25% of older adults, and that its use is associated with immediate memory improvement that was sustained through the course of follow-up. Findings are consistent with the notion that older adults balance complexity with novelty in strategy selection, and that changes in strategies used following memory training result in observable qualitative and quantitative differences in memory performance.
Method of loci; strategy use; memory training; gerontology; older adults
Social support has been shown to buffer cognitive decline in older adults; however, few studies have examined the association of distinct functions of perceived social support and cognitive function. The current study examined the relations between distinct functions of social support and numerous cognitive domains in older adults.
Data were derived from a cross-sectional, correlational study of cardiovascular risk factors, cognitive function, and neuroimaging. The participants were 175 older adults with a mean age of 66.32. A number of neuropsychological tests and the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List were administered. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to determine cross-sectional relations of social support to cognitive function after controlling for age, gender, education, depressive symptomatology, systolic blood pressure, body-mass index, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose.
No significant positive relations were found between distinct functions of social support and cognitive function in any domain; however, inverse relations emerged such that greater social support across several functions was associated with poorer nonverbal memory and response inhibition.
Results suggest that the receipt of social support may be a burden for some older adults. Within the current study, fluid cognitive abilities reflected this phenomenon. The mechanism through which social support is associated with poorer cognitive function in some domains deserves further exploration.
Two well-documented phenomena in person perception are the attractiveness halo effect (more positive impressions of more attractive people), and the babyface stereotype (more childlike impressions of more babyfaced people), shown by children, young adults (YA) and people from diverse cultures. This is the first study to systematically investigate these face stereotypes in older adults (OA) and to compare effects for younger and older adult faces.
YA and OA judges rated competence, health, hostility, untrustworthiness, attractiveness, and babyfaceness of older and younger neutral expression faces. Multilevel modeling assessed effects of rater age and face age on appearance stereotypes.
Like YA, OA showed both the attractiveness halo effect and the babyface stereotype. However, OA showed weaker effects of attractiveness on impressions of untrustworthiness, and only OA associated higher babyfaceness with greater competence. There also was own-age accentuation, with both OA and YA showing stronger face stereotypes for faces closer to their own age. Age differences in the strength of the stereotypes reflected an OA positivity effect shown in more influence of positive facial qualities on impressions or less influence of negative ones, rather than vice versa.
OA own-age biases, previously shown in emotion, age, and identity recognition, and OA positivity effects, previously revealed in attention, memory, and social judgments, also influence age differences in the strength and content of appearance stereotypes. Future research should assess implications of these results for age-related differences in susceptibility to appearance biases that YA have shown in socially significant domains, such as judicial and personnel decisions.
Aging; attractiveness halo; babyface stereotype; face perception
Older adults’ peak performance on memory and cognitive inhibition tasks tends to be in the morning while younger adults’ peak performance tends to be in the afternoon. Although these tasks require efficient attentional processes for optimal performance, previous research examining age differences in the effects of time of day has not measured the distinct aspects of attention quantified by the attentional network test (ANT; Fan, McCandliss, Sommer, & Posner, 2002).
We examined the relationship between time of testing and the efficiency of alerting, orienting and executive attention networks by randomly assigning younger (18–28 years; N = 27, M = 21.37 years, SD = 2.39) and older adults (65–85 years; N = 32, M = 73.34 years, SD = 5.18) to AM or PM testing of alerting, orienting and executive attention. Mean reaction times for each network was analyzed with a univariate ANOVA with age (younger, older) and time of day (AM, PM) as between-subjects factors.
Consistent with our hypotheses, while time of day had little effect on orienting or executive attention, it affected alerting in opposite ways for younger and older adults, with alerting cues benefitting performance most at participants’ off-peak times of day. A larger benefit from alerting cues was observed when participants’ were tested at their off-peak (M = 30.11 ± 15.66) relative to their peak time (M = 2.18 ± 15.97).
Our findings show that age-related circadian patterns influence the alerting component of attention, with both age groups showing the largest benefit from alerting cues when testing occurs at non-optimal times of day. Overall, our findings underscore the importance of controlling for time of day in investigations of attention and add to our understanding of how age differences in circadian patterns impact attention.
Task switching experiments have emphasized two robust effects that arise when individuals are required to shift between competing tasks: Mixing costs (MCs), which indicate less efficient performance in mixed-task versus single-task conditions, and switch costs (SCs), which reflect differences between switch trials and repetition trials within mixed-task conditions. The current study examined how age-related differences in these effects were influenced by the method of task selection in two procedures. Results indicated that SCs were not disproportionately larger for older adults during an exogenous switching condition, but large age differences in MCs were present beyond the degree predicted by differences in baseline speed. In an endogenous switching condition, small age differences were present both for MCs and SCs, although further age differences were evident in older adults' reduced switch rates. These findings suggest that older adults are substantially slower at updating repeated task sets during exogenous switching, but partially counter these effects by adopting a more persistent within-set mode of processing during endogenous switching.
cognitive aging; task switching; executive control
The goal of the study was to identify and characterize latent profiles (clusters) of cognitive functioning in centenarians and the psychometric properties of cognitive measures within them.
Data were collected from cross-sectional, population-based sample of 244 centenarians (aged 98-108, 15.8% men, 20.5% African-American, 38.0% community-dwelling) from 44 counties in Northern Georgia participating in the Georgia Centenarian Study (2001-2009). Measures included the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Severe Impairment Battery (SIB), Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III, Similarities sub-test (WAIS), Finger Tapping, Behavioral Dyscontrol Scale (BDS), Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT), and Fuld Object Memory Evaluation (FOME). The Global Deterioration Rating Scale (GDRS) was used to independently evaluate criterion-related validity for distinguishing cognitively normal and impaired groups. Relevant covariates included directly assessed functional status for basic and instrumental activities of daily living (DAFS), race, gender, educational attainment, Geriatric Depression Scale Short Form (GDS), and vision and hearing problems.
Results suggest two distinct classes of cognitive performance in this centenarian sample. Approximately one-third of the centenarians show a pattern of markedly lower cognitive performance on most measures. Group membership is independently well-predicted (AUC=.83) by GDRS scores (sensitivity 67.7%, specificity 82.4%). Membership in the lower cognitive performance group was more likely for individuals who were older, African Americans, had more depressive symptoms, lower plasma folate, carriers of the APOE ε4 allele, facility residents, and individuals who died in the two years following interview.
In a population expected to have high prevalence of dementia, latent subtypes can be distinguished via factor mixture analysis that provide normative values for cognitive functioning. The present study allows estimates for normative cognitive performance in this age group.
The role of processing speed and working memory was investigated in terms of individual differences in task-specific paired associates learning in a sample of older adults. Task-specific learning, as distinct from content-oriented item-specific learning, refers to gains in performance due to repeated practice on a learning task in which the to-be-learned material changes over trials.
Learning trajectories were modeled within an intensive repeated-measures design based on participants obtained from an opt-in internet-based sampling service (Mage = 65.3, SD = 4.81). Participants completed an eight-item paired associates task daily over a seven-day period.
Results indicated that a three-parameter hyperbolic model (i.e., initial level, learning rate, and asymptotic performance) best described learning trajectory. After controlling for age-related effects, both higher working memory and higher processing speed had a positive effect on all three learning parameters.
These results emphasize the role of cognitive abilities for individual differences in task-specific learning of older adults.
Physical performance measures have been found to be strong predictors of adverse outcomes in aging populations. Few studies have examined the predictive ability of physical performance measures exclusively within populations of the very old. This study explores the predictive ability of the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) and its three subcomponents - a timed walk, balance test, and timed repeated chair stands - on mortality in a sample of Mexican- Americans aged 75 and older.
Logistic regression analyses were used with data from the Hispanic Established Population for the Epidemiological Study of the Elderly (Hispanic EPESE), to investigate the relationship between timed walk, balance test, repeated timed chair stands, and the SPPB and mortality over a 2 ½ year period.
We find that being unable to complete the timed walk, the balance test, repeated timed chair stands, or unable to complete any of the SPPB was significantly associated with mortality over 2 ½ years.
These findings indicate that physical performance measures may be less predictive of short term mortality in very old Mexican Americans than previously thought. More research is needed to understand this relationship.
To examine sequential and simultaneous approaches to multiple imputation of missing data in a longitudinal dataset where losses due to death were common.
Comparison of results from analyses and simulations of time to incident difficulty of activities of daily living (ADL) in the Cardiovascular Health Study when missing data were imputed simultaneously or sequentially.
Results differed with imputation methods. The largest proportional differences in 12 risk factor parameter estimates were: heart failure by 106%, social support by 33%, and arthritis by 27%.
Decedents’ final characteristics were influential on future imputations of those with missing values.
Older adults, especially those with reduced hearing acuity, can make good use of
linguistic context in word recognition. Less is known about the effects of the weighted distribution
of probable target and non-target words that fit the sentence context (response entropy). The
present study examined the effects of age, hearing acuity, linguistic context, and response entropy
on spoken word recognition.
Participants were 18 older adults with good hearing acuity (M age = 74.3
years), 18 older adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss (M age = 76.1 years) and
18 young adults with age-normal hearing (M age = 19.6 years). Participants heard
sentence-final words using a word-onset gating paradigm, in which words were heard with increasing
amounts of onset information until they could be correctly identified. Degrees of context varied
from a neutral context to a high context condition.
Older adults with poor hearing acuity required a greater amount of word onset information
for recognition of words when heard in a neutral context compared to older adults with good hearing
acuity and young adults. This difference progressively decreased with an increase in words’
contextual probability. Unlike the young adults, both older adult groups’ word recognition
thresholds were sensitive to response entropy. Response entropy was not affected by hearing
Increasing linguistic context mitigates the negative effect of age and hearing loss on
word recognition. The effect of response entropy on older adults’ word recognition is
discussed in terms of an age-related inhibition deficit.
In Experiment 1, the authors investigated whether they could train retirement home activity directors with no previous experience in theatre to successfully execute an evidence-based four week theatre-arts intervention. In Experiment 2, they investigated whether an outside professional acting teacher who received only minimal training via email and telephone could successfully execute the same intervention heretofore only carried out by the actor/director/professor who devised it.
A total of 115 participants (ages 68–94) in four different retirement homes were taught theatre-arts either by their in-house activity director who had no formal training in theatre or a professional acting teacher recruited through a local community college. The intervention consisted of twice-weekly 70-minute lessons for four weeks. After random assignment to experimental or waiting-list control groups, participants were given pre- and post-tests on both functional and cognitive measures.
Experiment 1 showed that activity directors were able to run this intervention and achieve significant results on the 28-item functional measure (OTDL-R) as measured by a mixed design ANOVA and paired sample t-tests (p<.001), and on one cognitive measure, Means—End Problem Solving (MEPS), as measured by a MANCOVA and follow-up univariate ANOVAs. Experiment 2 (outside acting teacher) used the identical measures and revealed significant results on the OTDL-R (p = .002), Word Recall, MEPS, and Verbal Fluency (ηp2 ranging from .28 to .59).
This study addressed the feasibility of training multiple instructors of varying experience to administer this theatre arts intervention. Previous iterations had all been administered by the professional actor/director/theatre-professor who devised the program. These current results demonstrate that widespread administration of this short-term (four-week) evidence-based intervention is feasible.
Studies have found that executive functioning is affected early in the pathophysiological processes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. There also exists a range of functioning on executive tasks during normal aging. Although qualitative data are commonly utilized in clinical practice for evaluating subtle changes in cognitive functioning and diagnostic discernment, it is not clear whether error responses used in clinical practice are also evident as normative behavior.
As part of an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests, executive functioning measures (i.e., Trail Making-B, Similarities and Verbal Fluency tests) were administered via standardized administration prescript. Regression analyses were used to determine associations between vascular aging indices and qualitative performance measures. Descriptive statistics are included for 1907 cognitively normal individuals.
Results suggest that while qualitative errors do occur, they are relatively infrequent within a presumably cognitively normal sample. Error commission rates on executive functioning tests are significantly associated with both age and education.
Provided is a baseline profile of errors committed on tests of executive function across a range of age and educational levels. The normative datasets are included, stratified by age and educational achievement, for which to compare qualitative test performance of clinical and research populations.
Typical measures for assessing the useful field (UFOV) of view involve many components of attention. The objective of the current experiment was to examine differences in visual search efficiency for older individuals with and without UFOV impairment.
The authors used a computerized screening instrument to assess the useful field of view and to characterize participants as having an impaired or normal UFOV. Participants also performed two visual search tasks, a feature search (e.g., search for a green target among red distractors) or a conjunction search (e.g., a green target with a gap on its left or right side among red distractors with gaps on the left or right and green distractors with gaps on the top or bottom).
Visual search performance did not differ between UFOV impaired and unimpaired individuals when searching for a basic feature. However, search efficiency was lower for impaired individuals than unimpaired individuals when searching for a conjunction of features.
The results suggest that UFOV decline in normal aging is associated with conjunction search. This finding suggests that the underlying cause of UFOV decline may arise from an overall decline in attentional efficiency. Because the useful field of view is a reliable predictor of driving safety, the results suggest that decline in the everyday visual behavior of older adults might arise from attentional declines.
Temporal sequence learning is a critical aspect of episodic memory that may be dependent on the temporal and frontal lobes. Since amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and normal aging may result in changes within the temporal and frontal lobes, the present study investigated temporal sequence learning in patients with aMCI, cognitively normal older adults, and young adults.
On each trial of a temporal sequence task, circles appeared one at a time at the end of each arm of a computerized radial 8-arm maze. Participants were asked to reproduce the temporal sequence by placing numbered circles (1-8) on the arms of the 8-arm maze. Participants were presented with the same fixed sequence on each trial until the sequence was replicated without any errors, or until 15 trials were presented.
Individuals with aMCI required significantly more trials to learn the temporal sequence compared to older adults (p <. 05). Older adults required significantly more trials to learn the sequence than young adults (p <. 05). Older adults and individuals with aMCI committed significantly more Trial 1 errors (p <. 05) than young adults; however, there were no significant differences between the aMCI and older adult groups on Trial 1.
The results suggest that temporal sequence learning deficits are detectable in aMCI. These deficits may disrupt a number of cognitive processes, such as episodic memory, that are important for the execution of daily activities. The results suggest that although temporal sequence learning declines with normal aging, this decline is greater in individuals who have a diagnosis of aMCI and are at higher risk for developing AD.
Interactive imagery is superior to rote repetition as an encoding strategy for paired associate (PA) recall. Younger and older individuals often rate these strategies as equally effective before they gain experience using each strategy. The present study investigated how experimenter-supervised and participant-chosen strategy experience affected younger and older adults’ knowledge about the effectiveness of these two strategies.
Ninety-nine younger (M = 19.0 years, SD = 1.4) and 90 older adults (M = 70.4 years, SD = 5.2) participated in the experiment. In learning a first PA list participants were either instructed to use imagery or repetition to study specific items (supervised) or could choose their own strategies (unsupervised). All participants were unsupervised on a second PA list to evaluate whether strategy experience affected strategy knowledge, strategy use, and PA recall.
Both instruction groups learned about the superiority of imagery use through task experience, downgrading repetition ratings and upgrading imagery ratings on the second list. However, older adults showed less knowledge updating than did younger adults. Previously supervised younger adults increased their imagery use, improving PA recall; older adults maintained a higher level of repetition use.
Older adults update knowledge of the differential effectiveness of the rote and imagery strategies, but to a lesser degree than younger adults. Older adults manifest an inertial tendency to continue using the repetition strategy even though they have learned that it is inferior to interactive imagery.
Self-regulated learning; aging; strategy; knowledge; metacognition
While the Clock Drawing Test (CDT) is a popular tool used to assess cognitive function, limited normative data on CDT performance exists. The objective of the current study was to provide normative data on an expanded version of previous CDT scoring protocols from a large community-based sample of middle to older adults (aged 43 to 91) from the Framingham Heart Study.
The CDT was administered to 1476 Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort participants using a scoring protocol that assigned error scores to drawn features. Total error scores were computed, as well as for subscales pertaining to outline, numeral placement, time-setting, center, and “other.”
Higher levels of education were significantly associated with fewer errors for time-setting (Command: p<.001; Copy: p=.003), numerals (Command: p<.001) and “other” (Command: p<.001) subscales. Older age was significantly associated with more errors for time-setting (Command: p<.001; Copy: p=.003), numeral (Command: p<.001) and “other” (Command: p<.001) subscales. Significant differences were also found between education groups on the Command condition for all but the oldest age group (75+).
Results provide normative data on CDT performance within a community-based cohort. Errors appear to be more prevalent in older compared with younger individuals, and may be less prevalent in individuals who completed at least some college compared with those who did not. Future studies are needed to determine whether this expanded scoring system allows detection of preclinical symptoms of future risk for dementia.
Clock Drawing Test; Normal aging; Scoring methods; Neuropsychological tests; Dementia; Cognitive screening
Musculoskeletal pain after motor vehicle collision is a substantial public health problem. The number of elderly individuals experiencing motor vehicle collision is increasing. We conducted analyses of data collected as part of a prospective observational study of outcomes after motor vehicle collision to estimates rates of persistent pain, pain interference, and change in physical function in patients 65 or older.
Adults presenting to one of four emergency departments following motor vehicle collision without severe or life-threatening injury were recruited. Outcomes were assessed using one month follow-up surveys.
The frequencies of persistent moderate or severe pain resulting from the motor vehicle collision were similar among elderly and non-elderly participants, both in the neck region (27% vs. 30%) and in any region (60% vs. 56%). For both elderly and non-elderly patients, persistent pain was associated with high levels of interference with physical activity and mood.
Further studies of this vulnerable and rapidly increasing injury population are needed.
Theories of cognitive aging predict associations among processes that transpire within individuals, but are often tested by examining between-person relationships. The authors provide an empirical demonstration of how associations among measures of processing speed, attention switching, and working memory are different when considered between persons versus within persons over time.
A sample of 108 older adults (Mage: 80.8, range: 66–95) and 68 younger adults (Mage: 20.2, range:18–24) completed measures of processing speed, attention switching, and working memory on six occasions over a 14-day period. Multilevel modeling was used to examine processing speed and attention switching performance as predictors of working memory performance simultaneously across days (within-person) and across individuals (between-person).
The findings indicates that simple comparison and response speed predicted working memory better than attention switching between persons, whereas attention switching predicted working memory better than simple comparison and response speed within persons over time. Furthermore, the authors did not observe strong evidence of age differences in these associations either within or between persons.
The findings of the current study suggest that processing speed is important for understanding between-person and age-related differences in working memory, whereas attention switching is more important for understanding within-person variation in working memory. The authors conclude that theories of cognitive aging should be evaluated by analysis of within-person processes, not exclusively age-related individual differences.
Aerobic fitness is associated with preserved cognition and brain volume in older adulthood. The current study investigated whether the benefits of aerobic fitness extend to obese older adults, a segment of the population that is rapidly growing and who exhibit compromised cognition and brain structure relative to their non-obese counterparts.
Measures of obesity, aerobic fitness, cognition (processing speed, executive function, spatial ability, memory) and regional brain volumes (prefrontal gray, prefrontal white, hippocampus) were obtained from 19 obese older adults aged 65 – 75. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted to examine the proportion of unique variance in cognitive and volumetric measures accounted for by aerobic fitness after controlling for covariates (age, gender, and waist circumference).
Aerobic fitness accounted for a significant amount of unique variance in processing speed (adjusted R2=.44), executive function (adjusted R2=.34), and hippocampal volume (adjusted R2=.27).
This novel pattern of results suggests that obesity does not preclude the benefits of fitness for cognition and brain volume in older adults. Fitness appears to be a beneficial factor for maintenance of processing speed, executive function, and hippocampal volume, which are vulnerable to age- and/or obesity-related decline.
Young and old subjects were tested on their memory for paired-associate terms when cued with either facilitative or misleading word stems. After studying a long list of pairs of unrelated words (e.g., hair - turtle), recall of a particular target term was cued in a facilitative manner (hair-tu____) or a misleading manner (hair-ta____). The effects of these cues were assessed relative to a baseline condition in which levels of performance lay between the other two (hair-t____). To interpret the age-related effects of the facilitative and misleading cues relative to baseline, the variance in differences between the baseline and the experimental conditions related to the overall baseline level was factored out, and age-related differences as a function of cue were assessed on the remaining variability. This analysis revealed that the two age groups differed both in their ability to overcome the adverse effects of the misleading cue and also to take advantage of the benefits afforded by the facilitative cue. This combination of results is consistent with the view that aging results in a loss of general strategic control, and not specifically inhibitory control, over the effects of retrieval cues.
This study evaluates the involvement of switching skills and working memory capacity in auditory sentence processing in older adults. We examined 241 healthy participants, aged 55 to 88 years, who completed four neuropsychological tasks and two sentence-processing tasks. In addition to age and the expected contribution of working memory, switching ability, as measured by the number of perseverative errors on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, emerged as a strong predictor of performance on both sentence processing tasks. Individuals with both low working-memory spans and more perseverative errors achieved the lowest accuracy scores. Our findings are consistent with compensatory accounts of successful performance in older age.
This study provides, for the first time, normative data on cognitive functioning and physical performance, health and health behaviors, and diseases from a population-based sample of 244 centenarians and near-centenarians (M age = 100.5 years, range 98-108, 84.8% women, 21.3% African American) from the Georgia Centenarian Study. Data are presented by the four key dimensions of gender, race, residence, and educational attainment. Results illustrate the profound range of functioning in this age group and indicate considerable differences as a function of each dimension. Bivariate models generally suggest that cognitive functioning and physical performance is higher for: men than women; whites than African Americans; community than facility residents; those with more than high school education than those with less than high school education. Multivariate models elaborate that differences in educational attainment generally account for the largest proportion of variance in cognitive functioning and residential status generally accounts for the largest proportion of variance in physical performance measures. Addition of health variables seldom increases variance accounted for in each domain beyond these four dimensions.
The authors tested the hypothesis that difficulty in identifying odors, a common finding in Parkinson's disease, is associated with more rapid progression of parkinsonian signs in 743 community-dwelling older people without dementia or Parkinson's disease at study onset. Odor identification ability was assessed at baseline with the 12-item Brief Smell Identification Test (mean = 9.0 correct, SD = 2.1), and parkinsonism was assessed annually for up to 5 years with a modified version of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale. In an analysis adjusted for age, sex, and education, lower odor identification score was related to higher level of global parkinsonism at baseline (p < .001) and more rapid progression of global parkinsonism on follow-up (p = .002). This result mainly reflected an association of odor identification with worsening parkinsonian gait. The results suggest that impaired odor identification is associated with more rapid progression of parkinsonism in old age, particularly parkinsonian gait disturbance.
This article examines age differences in individual’s ability to produce the durations of learned auditory and visual target events either in isolation (focused attention) or concurrently (divided attention). Young adults produced learned target durations equally well in focused and divided attention conditions. Older adults in contrast showed an age-related increase in timing variability in divided attention conditions that tended to be more pronounced for visual targets than for auditory targets. Age-related impairments were associated with a decrease in working memory span; moreover, the relationship between working memory and timing performance was largest for visual targets in divided attention conditions.