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.
The present study compared how varying task priorities affected young and older adults’ language production. Both young and older adults responded to monetary incentives to vary their performance when simultaneously talking and tracking a pursuit rotor. Tracking performance improved when they were rewarded for tracking and declined when they were rewarded for talking. Both young and older adults also spoke more slowly when rewarded for tracking and more rapidly when rewarded for talking. Young produced less complex sentences when rewarded for tracking and produced more complex sentences when rewarded for talking. However, older adults did not vary their grammatical complexity as a function of monetary incentives. These results are consistent with prior studies suggesting that older adults use a simplified speech register in response to dual task demands.
Language production; dual task demands; working memory
We asked whether different forms of inhibition are altered differently by aging using a Motor and Perceptual Inhibition Test (MAPIT) based on Nassauer and Halperin (Nassauer & Halperin, 2003). Ninety-eight individuals participating in studies of balance and attention were separated into younger (mean age 25 years) and older participants (mean age 73). Older participants showed less Perceptual and Motor Inhibition than younger participant with moderation of this effect by gender. The two scores were uncorrelated in the young but significantly correlated in the older group. Overall, the MAPIT appeared to yield reliable measures of two aspects of inhibition that demonstrate a differential impact of age.
Reaction time; executive function; reliability; human performance; processing speed; response choice
A number of recent studies have shown that associative memory for within-item features is enhanced for emotionally arousing items, whereas arousal-enhanced binding is not seen for associations between distinct items (for a review see Mather, 2007). The costs and benefits of arousal in memory binding have been examined for younger adults but not for older adults. The present experiment examined whether arousal would enhance younger and older adults' within-item and between-item memory binding. The results revealed that arousal improved younger adults' within-item memory binding but not that of older adults. Arousal worsened both groups' between-item memory binding.
We examined the effects of adult age and control beliefs on self-regulatory responses to feedback using a false feedback paradigm. Young and older adults read and attempted to solve a series of problems and periodically received either high- or low- performance feedback. Self-regulatory processes were assessed in terms of task specific beliefs consisting of self-efficacy and performance expectations as well as degree of attention allocated to reading the mysteries. Results showed that high-performance feedback increased self-efficacy and performance expectations relative to low-performance feedback and that these effects were comparable across levels of pre-existing control beliefs and across age groups. However, the effects of feedback on attention were moderated by age and pre-existing control beliefs. Older adults in the high-performance feedback condition who had high levels of control beliefs allocated more attention to the text than did their low-control peers. These findings suggest that positive feedback may encourage older adults to engage more fully in a reading task, however, only when they possess a strong sense of control.
Self-regulation; feedback; attention; reading; beliefs
The present study investigated evidence for race-related test bias in cognitive measures used in the baseline assessment of the ACTIVE clinical trial. Test bias against African Americans has been documented in both cognitive aging and early lifespan studies. Despite significant mean performance differences, Multiple Indicators Multiple Causes (MIMIC) models suggested most differences were at the construct level. There was little evidence that specific measures put either group at particular advantage or disadvantage and little evidence of cognitive test bias in this sample. Small group differences in education, cognitive status, and health suggest positive selection may have attenuated possible biases.
The objective of this study was to model recall and learning on the Auditory Verbal Learning Test using latent growth curve techniques. Participants were older adults recruited for the ACTIVE cognitive intervention pilot. A series of nested models revealed that an approximately logarithmic growth curve model provided optimal fit to the data. Although recall and learning factors were statistically uncorrelated, a fitted multivariate model suggested that initial recall was significantly associated with demographic characteristics but unrelated to health factors and cognitive abilities. Individual differences in learning were related to race/ethnicity, speed of processing, verbal knowledge, and global cognitive function level. These results suggest that failing to recognize initial recall and learning as distinct constructs clouds the interpretation of supraspan memory tasks.
We examined whether extending the administration time of letter fluency from one minute per letter trial (standard administration) to two minutes increased the sensitivity of this test to cognitive status in aging. Participants (mean age = 84.6) were assigned to cognitive impairment (n=20) and control (n=40) groups. Pearson correlations and scatter plot analyses showed that associations between the Dementia Rating Scale scores and letter fluency were higher and less variable when performance on the latter was extended to two minutes. ANOVA showed that the cognitive impairment group generated fewer words in the second minute of the letter fluency task compared to the control group. Finally, discriminant function analyses revealed that extending the letter fluency trials to two minutes increased discrimination between the control and cognitive impairment groups.
letter fluency; aging; cognitive impairment
Visual search studies have demonstrated that older adults can have preserved or even increased top-down control over distraction. However, the results are mixed as to the extent of this age-related preservation. The present experiment assesses group differences in younger and older adults during visual search, with a task featuring two conditions offering varying degrees of top-down control over distraction. After controlling for generalized slowing, the analyses revealed that the age groups were equally capable of utilizing top-down control to minimize distraction. Furthermore, for both age groups, the distraction effect was manifested in a sustained manner across the reaction time distribution.
aging; attention; visual search; singleton; distraction
Young and older adults heard sentences in which one character was describing another character (“The doctor said the nurse is thirsty”), where the character being described could be determined only by the prosodic pattern in which the sentence was heard. Using computer editing, the authors generated sentences that were heard with either one (Experiment 1) or two (Experiment 2) of three ordinarily co-occurring prosodic features reduced (pitch variation, amplitude variation, timing variation). For both age groups, timing variation was the most valuable of the three prosodic features. These results add to our understanding of the effective preservation of spoken language comprehension in normal aging.
The factor structure and factorial invariance of the Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s Disease (QoL-AD) Scale was investigated in a sample of 653 nondemented, community-dwelling older adults, ages 57 to 95 years (M = 71.62, SD = 8.86), from the Seattle Longitudinal Study. The total sample was split into two random halves to explore and confirm the structure of the QoL-AD. Confirmatory factor analyses indicated better fit for a three-factor solution than one- or two-factor solutions. Weak factorial invariance was found for the three-factor solution (Physical, Social, and Psychological Well-being) across age group and gender. These findings may help to establish a baseline quality of life before the onset of any noticeable AD symptoms.
Previous research has established that the effects of chronically increased blood pressure (BP) on cognition interact with adult age, but the relevant cognitive processes are not well defined. In this cross sectional study, using a sample matched for age, years of education, and sex, 134 individuals with either normal BP (n = 71) or chronically high BP (n = 63) were categorized into younger (19-39 years), middle-aged (41-58 years), and older (60-79 years) groups. Using a between-subjects ANOVA, covarying for race and years of education, composite measures of executive function and perceptual speed both exhibited age-related decline. The executive function measure, however, was associated with a differential decline in high BP older adults. This result held even when the executive function scores were covaried for speed, demonstrating an independent, age-related effect of higher BP on executive function.
Because faces are frequently used as stimuli in cognitive aging behavioral and neuroimaging studies, there is a need for a normed set of pictures reflecting age and ethnic diversity. Minear and Park (2004) provided a large database of face pictures from average, ethnically diverse individuals across the adult lifespan. The current study evaluated 180 pictures from that database. 108 participants (mean age 23) rated each picture on specific attributes: perceived age, familiarity of appearance, mood, memorability, and image quality. Because the pictures did not differ in any of the measured attributes, we provide 3 balanced sets of face stimuli to researchers desiring normed face stimuli free from age confounds.
aging; faces; standardized; norms; mood
Recent research has suggested that negative stereotypes about aging may have a detrimental influence on older adults' memory performance. This study sought to determine whether stereotype-based influences were moderated by age, education, and concerns about being stigmatized. Possible mechanisms underlying these influences on memory performance were also explored. The memory performance of adults aged 60 to 70 years and 71 to 82 years was examined under conditions designed to induce or eliminate stereotype threat. Threat was found to have a greater impact on performance in the young-old than in the old-old group, whereas the opposite was observed for the effects of stigma consciousness. In both cases, the effects were strongest for those with higher levels of education. Further analyses found little evidence in support of the mediating roles of affective responses or working memory. The only evidence of mediation was found with respect to recall predictions, suggesting a motivational basis of threat effects on performance. These findings highlight the specificity of stereotype threat effects in later adults as well as possible mechanisms underlying such effects.
Aging; stereotype threat; memory; affect; stigma consciousness