Effortful semantic decision-making boosts memory performance in older adults

Li Fu, Joseph H. R. Maes, Samarth Varma, Roy P. C. Kessels, Sander M. Daselaar
2016 Memory  
A major concern in age-related cognitive decline is episodic memory (EM). Previous studies indicate that both resource and binding deficits contribute to EM decline. Environmental support by task manipulations encouraging stronger cognitive effort and deeper levels of processing may facilitate compensation for these two deficits. To clarify factors that can counteract age-related EM decline, we assessed effects of cognitive effort (four levels) and level of processing (LoP, shallow/deep) during
more » ... encoding on subsequent retrieval. Young (YAs, N = 23) and older (OAs, N = 23) adults performed two incidental encoding tasks, deep/semantic and shallow/perceptual. Cognitive effort was manipulated by varying decision-making demands. EM performance, indexed by d-prime, was later tested using a recognition task. Results showed that regardless of LoP, increased cognitive effort caused higher d-primes in both age groups. Compared to YAs, OAs showed a lower d-prime after shallow encoding across all cognitive effort levels, and after deep encoding with low cognitive effort. Deep encoding with higher levels of cognitive effort completely eliminated these age differences. Our findings support an environmentalcompensatory account of cognitive ageing and can have important therapeutic implications.
doi:10.1080/09658211.2016.1193204 pmid:27251468 fatcat:xre4dr6rl5b4zdbgjcdevegho4