Sequence skill acquisition and off-line learning in normal aging

Brown, R. M., Robertson, E. M. and Press, D. Z. (2009) Sequence skill acquisition and off-line learning in normal aging. PLoS ONE, 4(8), e6683. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006683) (PMID:19690610) (PMCID:PMC2723909)

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Abstract

It is well known that certain cognitive abilities decline with age. The ability to form certain new declarative memories, particularly memories for facts and events, has been widely shown to decline with advancing age. In contrast, the effects of aging on the ability to form new procedural memories such as skills are less well known, though it appears that older adults are able to acquire some new procedural skills over practice. The current study examines the effects of normal aging on procedural memory more closely by comparing the effects of aging on the encoding or acquisition stage of procedural learning versus its effects on the consolidation, or between-session stage of procedural learning. Twelve older and 14 young participants completed a sequence-learning task (the Serial Reaction Time Task) over a practice session and at a re-test session 24 hours later. Older participants actually demonstrated more sequence skill during acquisition than the young. However, older participants failed to show skill improvement at re-test as the young participants did. Age thus appears to have a differential effect upon procedural learning stages such that older adults' skill acquisition remains relatively intact, in some cases even superior, compared to that of young adults, while their skill consolidation may be poorer than that of young adults. Although the effect of normal aging on procedural consolidation remains unclear, aging may actually enhance skill acquisition on some procedural tasks.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was supported by NIH Grant MH 65434 awarded to D.Z. Press, as well as NIH Grant R01 NS051446 awarded to E.M. Robertson.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Robertson, Professor Edwin
Authors: Brown, R. M., Robertson, E. M., and Press, D. Z.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN:1932-6203
ISSN (Online):1932-6203
Published Online:19 August 2009
Copyright Holders:Copyright: © 2009 Brown et al.
First Published:First published in PLoS ONE 4(8):e6683
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a creative commons license

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