Training-induced compensation versus magnification of individual differences in memory performance

Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development Berlin, Germany.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 2.99). 05/2012; 6:141. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00141
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Do individuals with higher levels of task-relevant cognitive resources gain more from training, or do they gain less? For episodic memory, empirical evidence is mixed. Here, we revisit this issue by applying structural equation models for capturing individual differences in change to data from 108 participants aged 9-12, 20-25, and 65-78 years. Participants learned and practiced an imagery-based mnemonic to encode and retrieve words by location cues. Initial mnemonic instructions reduced between-person differences in memory performance, whereas further practice after instruction magnified between-person differences. We conclude that strategy instruction compensates for inefficient processing among the initially less able. In contrast, continued practice magnifies ability-based between-person differences by uncovering individual differences in memory plasticity.

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Available from: Ulman Lindenberger, Sep 29, 2015
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    • "Moreover, recent work has applied latent variable approaches to analyze individual differences in performance changes as well as correlations between baseline cognitive ability and trainingrelated benefits. One of these studies provided evidence for the magnification account: Loevdén et al. (2012) analyzed data from a study on episodic memory strategy training (based on the method of loci), including children and adolescents (9–12 years) as well as younger adults (20–25 years) and older adults (65–78 years). Even though strategy instructions at the beginning of training reduced individual differences in memory performance, further training ultimately magnified individual differences. "
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    ABSTRACT: Executive functions (EFs) include a number of higher-level cognitive control abilities, such as cognitive flexibility, inhibition, and working memory, which are instrumental in supporting action control and the flexible adaptation changing environments. These control functions are supported by the prefrontal cortex and therefore develop rapidly across childhood and mature well into late adolescence. Given that executive control is a strong predictor for various life outcomes, such as academic achievement, socioeconomic status, and physical health, numerous training interventions have been designed to improve executive functioning across the lifespan, many of them targeting children and adolescents. Despite the increasing popularity of these trainings, their results are neither robust nor consistent, and the transferability of training-induced performance improvements to untrained tasks seems to be limited. In this review, we provide a selective overview of the developmental literature on process-based cognitive interventions by discussing (1) the concept and the development of EFs and their neural underpinnings, (2) the effects of different types of executive control training in normally developing children and adolescents, (3) individual differences in training-related performance gains as well as (4) the potential of cognitive training interventions for the application in clinical and educational contexts. Based on recent findings, we consider how transfer of process-based executive control trainings may be supported and how interventions may be tailored to the needs of specific age groups or populations.
    Frontiers in Psychology 05/2014; 5:390. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00390 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    • "No differences in neuropsychological test performance were detected at baseline assessment. However, the sensitivity of the testing-the-limits approach [17] may have enabled us to detect differences even in a small sample since adaptive training has been suggested to magnify individual differences in cognitive performance [28]. Therefore, divergent nonfindings from other studies may be due to the one-time assessment of cognitive function and also due to the wide age range typically present in these samples [10, 11, 13]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: Recent work suggests that a genetic variation associated with increased dopamine metabolism in the prefrontal cortex (catechol-O-methyltransferase Val158Met; COMT) amplifies age-related changes in working memory performance. Research on younger adults indicates that the influence of dopamine-related genetic polymorphisms on working memory performance increases when testing the cognitive limits through training. To date, this has not been studied in older adults. Method: Here we investigate the effect of COMT genotype on plasticity in working memory in a sample of 14 younger (aged 24-30 years) and 25 older (aged 60-75 years) healthy adults. Participants underwent adaptive training in the n-back working memory task over 12 sessions under increasing difficulty conditions. Results: Both younger and older adults exhibited sizeable behavioral plasticity through training (P < .001), which was larger in younger as compared to older adults (P < .001). Age-related differences were qualified by an interaction with COMT genotype (P < .001), and this interaction was due to decreased behavioral plasticity in older adults carrying the Val/Val genotype, while there was no effect of genotype in younger adults. Discussion: Our findings indicate that age-related changes in plasticity in working memory are critically affected by genetic variation in prefrontal dopamine metabolism.
    03/2014; 2014(3):414351. DOI:10.1155/2014/414351
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    • "It also is surprisingly difficult to assess whether any observed brain changes reflect a fundamental increase in neural capacity or merely a change in strategy. Lövdén et al39 suggest that specific strategy instructions operate to reduce performance differences between subjects because, in a sense, such instructions level the playing field so that old and young participants are more likely to use similar and optimal strategies. At the same time, Lövdén et al39 observed that sustained cognitive training that followed the strategy instructions operated to magnify differences between individuals, because there was considerable heterogeneity in the ability of participants to profit from the training — that is, there were significant plasticity differences between subjects. "
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    ABSTRACT: Is it possible to enhance neural and cognitive function with cognitive training techniques? Can we delay age-related decline in cognitive function with interventions and stave off Alzheimer's disease? Does an aged brain really have the capacity to change in response to stimulation? In the present paper, we consider the neuroplasticity of the aging brain, that is, the brain's ability to increase capacity in response to sustained experience. We argue that, although there is some neural deterioration that occurs with age, the brain has the capacity to increase neural activity and develop neural scaffolding to regulate cognitive function. We suggest that increase in neural volume in response to cognitive training or experience is a clear indicator of change, but that changes in activation in response to cognitive training may be evidence of strategy change rather than indicative of neural plasticity. We note that the effect of cognitive training is surprisingly durable over time, but that the evidence that training effects transfer to other cognitive domains is relatively limited. We review evidence which suggests that engagement in an environment that requires sustained cognitive effort may facilitate cognitive function.
    03/2013; 15(1):109-19.
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