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Cognitive training in young and old adults: Transfer, long-term effects, and predictors of gain
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Aging, also in the absence of pathological conditions, is associated with cognitivedecline, especially in so called fluid abilities, such as episodic memory andexecutive functions. Due to an ongoing demographic shift, a larger part of thepopulation will reach higher ages, and more people will be affected by age-relatedcognitive decline. Finding ways of counteracting this development have the potentialof having large benefits for both individuals and society. It has long beenknown that living in environments that are rich in terms of cognitive challengescan affect cognitive ability in old age. In this regard, intervention studies in whichthe amount of cognitive stimulation is manipulated can therefore generate insightsto the causality of such effects in specific cognitive functions. Cognitive trainingas means to counteract negative effects of aging on cognition has received a lot ofscientific interest in the last decades.This focus of this thesis is cognitive training interventions, which is studiedfrom several perspectives. In Study i, the aim was to investigate the extent towhich executive functions can be strengthened by training in younger and olderadults, and to which degree such training generalize to other measures of cognition.Although a large body of research has been investigating training of workingmemory and executive functions in recent years, the results are diverse, and fewhave been targeting executive functions broadly with training programs based ontheoretical models of executive functions. Study i showed that despite a broadtraining program targeting three executive functions (updating, shifting and inhibition),it did not lead to transfer beyond the very near in old adults. The youngerhowever showed transfer effects to measures of working memory.In Study ii, the focus was on studying how the effects survive across time.There is limited knowledge about long-term effects of process-based training andthe results showed that the training effect was stable after 1.5 years, while only thenearest transfer effect was still significant in both younger and older adults.Study iii focused on individual factors affecting gain and maintenance thereofin a sample of older individuals. We used a strategy-based intervention focusingon episodic memory performance with a number-consonant mnemonic which is amnemonic for memorizing digit-codes. A different set of predictors was observedfor baseline episodic memory performance and training gain. Those that are betteroff in terms of episodic memory performance, also gain more in the episodic memorycriterion task. Further, a higher rate of processing speed was also important.Lastly, better verbal knowledge also influence gain beyond the other factors. Theresults have both theoretical implications regarding how plastic cognitive functionsare, and practical, in terms of how to best design training programs.

Abstract [sv]

Över hela världen blir vi äldre. År 2050 kommer en femtedel av jordens befolkningvara 60 år eller äldre, att jämföra med en knapp tiondel år 1950. Det är förstås enpositiv utveckling men en åldrande befolkning innebär också att vi står inför flerautmaningar. En sådan rör det kognitiva åldrandet. Vi vet att åldrande kan leda tillnedgång i vissa kognitiva förmågor, såsom det episodiska minnet samt exekutivafunktioner. Episodiskt minne är vår förmåga att komma ihåg upplevda händelserknutna till tid och rum. Exekutiva funktioner är ett begrepp som inbegriper vårförmåga att hålla en plan aktiv medan vi utför den, utan att distraheras av tankareller externa störningsmoment. Genom att studera effekter av träning hos yngreoch äldre vuxna på sådana kognitiva funktioner kan vi få kunskap om till vilkengrad de kan förbättras och om denna förbättringspotential är olika beroende påålder. Vi vet sedan tidigare att människor som under sin livstid lever ett kognitivtstimulerande liv också till viss del är skyddade mot nedgång i kognition underåldrandet. Träningsstudier kan ge kunskap om kausaliteten i sådana fynd.Studie i i denna avhandling behandlar träning av exekutiva funktioner föryngre och äldre vuxna. Träningsprogrammet konstruerades utefter en teoretiskmodell som beskriver exekutiva funktioner som bestående av förmågan att inhiberastörande stimuli eller överlärda responser, förmågan att uppdatera informationi arbetsminnet, och förmågan att skifta mellan att utföra olika uppgifter. Resultatenvisade att de yngre kunde generalisera träningseffekten också till otränadearbetsminnesuppgifter, medan de äldre endast visade förbättring på otränade uppgiftersom hade stora likheter med de tränade.I Studie ii undersöktes hur mycket av träningseffekterna som kvarstod ettoch ett halvt år efter träningen. Resultaten visade att både för yngre och äldreså kvarstod effekten på tränade uppgifter samt en av uppgifterna som hade stortöverlapp med träningsuppgifterna, för både unga och äldre.I Studie iii studerades ett strategibaserat träningsprogram för episodisktminne. Fokus låg på att undersöka vilka individuella kognitiva faktorer sompåverkar förbättring som följd av träning. Resultaten visade att de med högre förmågai kognitiv bearbetningshastighet samt verbal förmåga var de som hade bästförutsättningar för förbättring.Resultaten från dessa studier är av både teoretisk relevans i och med att deökar förståelsen för träningsbarheten av exekutiva funktioner, samt har praktiskrelevans för utformning av träningsprogram.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2014. , 84 p.
Keyword [en]
Cognitive training, aging, old adults, executive function, life-span, individual differences, episodic memory, inhibition, shifting, updating, cognitive control, strategy training, mnemonics, predictors
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96719ISBN: 978-91-7601-176-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-96719DiVA: diva2:766599
Public defence
2014-12-19, Beteendevetarhuset, BT 102, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-11-28 Created: 2014-11-27 Last updated: 2014-11-28Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Executive process training in young and old adults
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Executive process training in young and old adults
2014 (English)In: Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, ISSN 1382-5585, E-ISSN 1744-4128, Vol. 21, no 5, 577-605 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

There is a growing body of research on the modifiability of executive functions in different stages of life. Previous studies demonstrate robust training effects but limited transfer in younger and particularly in older adults. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether a theoretically derived intervention for executive functioning, addressing several basic processes (updating, shifting, and inhibition), can induce transfer effects in early and late adulthood. Fifty-nine healthy adults, 29 young and 30 older adults, were randomly assigned to either training or no-contact control groups. The training groups received 15 sessions of executive process training for about 45 min/session during 5 weeks. A test battery including a criterion task and near, intermediate, and far transfer tasks was administered before and after training. Results showed pronounced age-equivalent gains on the criterion task. Near transfer was seen to non-trained updating and inhibition tasks for the young and older trained participants. However, only the young adults showed intermediate transfer to two complex working memory tasks. No far transfer effects were seen for either age group. These findings provide additional evidence for age-related constraints in the ability to generalize acquired executive skills, and specifically show that training of multiple executive processes is not sufficient to foster transfer beyond the very near in older adults.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2014
Keyword
Cognitive training, Transfer, Executive functions, Working memory, Young and old adults
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-91361 (URN)10.1080/13825585.2013.839777 (DOI)000338012600004 ()
Available from: 2014-08-11 Created: 2014-08-04 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
2. Maintenance of Training Gains and Near Transfer Effects in Young and Old Adults: an 18-Month Follow-up of Executive Process Training
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Maintenance of Training Gains and Near Transfer Effects in Young and Old Adults: an 18-Month Follow-up of Executive Process Training
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Objective: Prior studies have examined the magnitude of training and transfer effects after process-based training in early and late adulthood. However, little is known about how long-lasting these effects are. Here we investigated the degree of stability of training gains and transfer effects in younger and older adults 18 months after completion of executive process training, tapping updating, inhibition, and shifting. Method: From the original sample, 24 out of 30 older participants, and 19 out of 29 young adults, returned for follow-up assessment at which the criterion and transfer tests from pre- and posttest were re-administered. Results: The results demonstrated stability of training gains in the updating criterion task (letter memory running span), and in a near transfer updating task (number memory running span) for both age groups. The young adults improved performance in two complex working memory tasks immediately after training. These transfer effects did not survive across time. Conclusions: Our results provide evidence that executive process training has its greatest effect on transfer tasks with a substantial process overlap with the trained tasks: only those effects are maintained over an 18 month period in both early and late adulthood.

Keyword
cognitive training, executive functions, long-term effects, executive functions, working memory, updating, shifting, inhibition
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96714 (URN)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Available from: 2014-11-27 Created: 2014-11-27 Last updated: 2014-11-28Bibliographically approved
3. Memory plasticity in older adults: Cognitive predictors of training response and maintenance following learning of number-consonant mnemonic
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Memory plasticity in older adults: Cognitive predictors of training response and maintenance following learning of number-consonant mnemonic
2016 (English)In: Neuropsychological rehabilitation (Print), ISSN 0960-2011, E-ISSN 1464-0694, Vol. 26, no 5-6, 742-760 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The study investigated the relationship between cognitive factors and gains in number recall following training in a number–consonant mnemonic in a sample of 112 older adults (M = 70.9 years). The cognitive factors examined included baseline episodic memory, working memory, processing speed, and verbal knowledge. In addition, predictors of maintenance of gains to a follow-up assessment, eight months later, were examined. Whereas working memory was a prominent predictor of baseline recall, the magnitude of gains in recall from pre- to post-test assessments were predicted by baseline episodic memory, processing speed, and verbal knowledge. Verbal knowledge was the only significant predictor of maintenance. Collectively, the results indicate the need to consider multiple factors to account for individual differences in memory plasticity. The potential contribution of additional factors to individual differences in memory plasticity is discussed.

Keyword
Plasticity, predictors, individual differences, older adults, training, gain, maintenance
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96718 (URN)10.1080/09602011.2015.1046459 (DOI)000380246100004 ()26043066 (PubMedID)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Note

Special Issue: SI

Originally included in thesis in manuscript form.

Available from: 2014-11-27 Created: 2014-11-27 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved

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