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: 3.63). 05/2012; 6:141. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00141
Source: PubMed


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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    • "In particular, the reanalysis of the Brehmer et al. (2007) results by Lövdén et al. (2012) suggests that individual differences in memory‐relevant mechanisms and strategies modulate the benefits of training. For example, individuals with lower memory functioning may require a more directed strategy instruction, reflecting their greater need for environmental support (cf. "

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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.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Frontiers in Psychology
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · BioMed Research International
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