Poster D97, Monday, March 27, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Age-related differences in implicit skill consolidation across the human lifespan: Dissociation between general skill and sequence-specific knowledge
Karolina Janacsek1,2, Dora Juhasz3, Dezso Nemeth1,2; 1Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 2Eotvos Lorand University, 3University of Szeged
Recognizing sequential regularities of the environment underlies motor, cognitive and social skill acquisition, and is essential for predictive behavior and decision making in day-to-day activities. Therefore it is crucial to understand how sequence learning occurs and how the acquired information consolidates and stabilizes over time. The ontogenetic changes of these processes, however, are still poorly understood. Here we aimed to characterize age-related differences in the consolidation of sequential memories between 7 and 85 years of age. Participants were clustered into nine age groups. The Alternating Serial Reaction Time (ASRT) task was used to measure implicit sequence learning. Participants were retested 24 hours after the learning phase. Two aspects of learning were analyzed, namely general skill and sequence-specific learning. We found offline improvement in general skills across the lifespan, with greater improvement in childhood. In contrast, sequence-specific knowledge did not change in the offline period in either age group, indicating efficient retention of the acquired knowledge irrespective of age. These results remained stable even after controlling for age-related differences in overall accuracy and reaction time. Our findings suggest that the fronto-striatal circuits mediating general skill vs. sequential memory consolidation are differentially affected across the human lifespan: while general skill consolidation undergoes age-related changes, sequential memory consolidation shows developmental invariance. Our results highlight the importance of separate analysis of the subprocesses underlying skill learning.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Skill learning