STUDY ALERT: Working-memory training in younger and older adults

June 6, 2012 in Study Alerts

Working-memory training in younger and older adults: training gains, transfer, and maintenance 

Yvonne Brehmer, Helena Westerberg and Lars Bäckman    

Working memory (WM), a key determinant of many higher-order cognitive functions, declines in old age. Current research attempts to develop process-specific WM training procedures, which may lead to general cognitive improvement. Adaptivity of the training as well as the comparison of training gains to performance changes of an active control group are key factors in evaluating the effectiveness of a specific training program. In the present study, 55 younger adults (20–30 years of age) and 45 older adults (60–70 years of age) received 5 weeks of computerized training on various spatial and verbal WM tasks. Half of the sample received adaptive training (i.e., individually adjusted task difficulty), whereas the other half-worked on the same task material but on a low task difficulty level (active controls). Performance was assessed using criterion, near-transfer, and far-transfer tasks before training, after 5 weeks of intervention, as well as after a 3-month follow-up interval. Results indicate that (a) adaptive training generally led to larger training gains than low-level practice, (b) training and transfer gains were somewhat greater for younger than for older adults in some tasks, but comparable across age groups in other tasks, (c) far-transfer was observed to a test on sustained attention and for a self-rating scale on cognitive functioning in daily life for both young and old, and (d) training gains and transfer effects were maintained across the 3-month follow-up interval across age.

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(h/t Andrea Kuszewski)

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