Poster E115, Monday, March 26, 2:30-4:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Age-Related Deficits in Feedback-Based Cognitive Sequence Learning Among Healthy Older Adults
Layla Dang1, Mark A. Gluck2, Jessica R. Petok1; 1Saint Olaf College, Northfield, MN 55057, 2Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07102
Learning about sequences involves sensitivity to the typical serial ordering of events and is an important skill throughout adulthood. There is a lack of consensus on whether aging influences sequence learning, and if so, what factors might predict age-related impairments. For example, prior research suggests that working memory (WM) may underlie or mediate age-related sequence learning deficits. Additionally, the frontal lobe hypothesis of aging proposes that the prefrontal cortex is more vulnerable to the effects of aging than non-frontal areas and subsequently can hinder performance on tasks involving frontal functioning. The present study asked whether age predicts feedback-based cognitive sequence learning across the older adult lifespan (ages 55-89), and whether frontal functioning accounts for any age-related declines. Healthy older adults (n=147) completed a small battery of frontal functioning/WM-related neuropsychological measures, as well as a computerized feedback-based cognitive sequence learning task that required the step-by-step acquisition of associations through trial-and-error feedback. Of those who met a performance-based criterion, increasing age was positively correlated with higher number of sequencing errors. This relationship remained significant after controlling for frontal functioning. Furthermore, even though poorer frontal functioning was correlated with a higher number of sequencing errors, it was no longer a significant predictor of sequencing errors when accounting for age, suggesting that frontal functioning does not mediate the relationship between age and sequence learning. These findings indicate that older age is associated with cognitive sequence learning declines, irrespective of frontal functioning; however, structural neuroimaging studies are needed to substantiate this claim.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Skill learning