Cognitive and neural plasticity in older adults’ prospective memory following training with the Virtual Week computer game

TitleCognitive and neural plasticity in older adults’ prospective memory following training with the Virtual Week computer game
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsRose, NS, Rendell, PG, Hering, A, Kliegel, M, Bidelman, GM, Craik, FIM
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Keywordsactivities of daily living (ADL), aging, cognitive training, ERPs, prospective memory, virtual week

Prospective memory (PM) – the ability to remember and successfully execute our intentions and planned activities – is critical for functional independence and declines with age, yet few studies have attempted to train PM in older adults. We developed a PM training program using the Virtual Week computer game. Trained participants played the game in 12, 1-h sessions over 1 month. Measures of neuropsychological functions, lab-based PM, event-related potentials (ERPs) during performance on a lab-based PM task, instrumental activities of daily living, and real-world PM were assessed before and after training. Performance was compared to both no-contact and active (music training) control groups. PM on the Virtual Week game dramatically improved following training relative to controls, suggesting PM plasticity is preserved in older adults. Relative to control participants, training did not produce reliable transfer to laboratory-based tasks, but was associated with a reduction of an ERP component (sustained negativity over occipito-parietal cortex) associated with processing PM cues, indicative of more automatic PM retrieval. Most importantly, training produced far transfer to real-world outcomes including improvements in performance on real-world PM and activities of daily living. Real-world gains were not observed in either control group. Our findings demonstrate that short-term training with the Virtual Week game produces cognitive and neural plasticity that may result in real-world benefits to supporting functional independence in older adulthood.

Citation Key1704
Refereed DesignationRefereed

Older adults have difficulty in decoding sarcasm

TitleOlder adults have difficulty in decoding sarcasm
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsPhillips, LH, Allen, R, Bull, R, Hering, A, Kliegel, M, Channon, S
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Keywordsage differences, aging, cues, emotions, intention, interpersonal interaction, social cognition

Younger and older adults differ in performance on a range of social–cognitive skills, with older adults having difficulties in decoding nonverbal cues to emotion and intentions. Such skills are likely to be important when deciding whether someone is being sarcastic. In the current study we investigated in a life span sample whether there are age-related differences in the interpretation of sarcastic statements. Using both video and verbal materials, 116 participants aged between 18 and 86 completed judgments about whether statements should be interpreted literally or sarcastically. For the verbal stories task, older adults were poorer at understanding sarcastic intent compared with younger and middle-aged participants, but there was no age difference in interpreting control stories. For the video task, older adults showed poorer understanding of sarcastic exchanges compared with younger and middle-aged counterparts, but there was no age difference in understanding the meaning of sincere interactions. For the videos task, the age differences were mediated by the ability to perceive facial expressions of emotion. Age effects could not be explained in terms of variance in working memory. These results indicate that increased age is associated with specific difficulties in using nonverbal and contextual cues to understand sarcastic intent.

Citation Key1703
Refereed DesignationRefereed

The impact of cognitive control on children’s goal monitoring in a time-based prospective memory task

TitleThe impact of cognitive control on children’s goal monitoring in a time-based prospective memory task
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMahy, CEV, Voigt, B, Ballhausen, N, Schnitzspahn, KM, Ellis, J, Kliegel, M
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Keywordsdivided attention, inhibition, proactive control, prospective memory, reactive control, time monitoring

The present study investigated whether developmental changes in cognitive control may underlie improvements of time-based prospective memory. Five-, 7-, 9-, and 11-year-olds (N = 166) completed a driving simulation task (ongoing task) in which they had to refuel their vehicle at specific points in time (PM task). The availability of cognitive control resources was experimentally manipulated by imposing a secondary task that required divided attention. Children completed the driving simulation task both in a full-attention condition and a divided-attention condition where they had to carry out a secondary task. Results revealed that older children performed better than younger children on the ongoing task and PM task. Children performed worse on the ongoing and PM tasks in the divided-attention condition compared to the full-attention condition. With respect to time monitoring in the final interval prior to the PM target, divided attention interacted with age such that older children’s time monitoring was more negatively affected by the secondary task compared to younger children. Results are discussed in terms of developmental shifts from reactive to proactive monitoring strategies.

Citation Key1702
Refereed DesignationRefereed
PubMed ID25342074

Prospective memory function in late adulthood: Affect at encoding and resource allocation costs

TitleProspective memory function in late adulthood: Affect at encoding and resource allocation costs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsHenry, JD, Joeffry, S, Terrett, G, Ballhausen, N, Kliegel, M, Rendell, PG
JournalPLoS ONE

Some studies have found that prospective memory (PM) cues which are emotionally valenced influence age effects in prospective remembering, but it remains unclear whether this effect reflects the operation of processes implemented at encoding or retrieval. In addition, none of the prior ageing studies of valence on PM function have examined potential costs of engaging in different valence conditions, or resource allocation trade-offs between the PM and the ongoing task. In the present study, younger, young-old and old-old adults completed a PM task in which the valence of the cues varied systematically (positive, negative or neutral) at encoding, but was kept constant (neutral) at retrieval. The results indicated that PM accuracy did not vary as a function of affect at encoding, and that this effect did not interact with age group. There was also no main or interaction effect of valence on PM reaction time in PM cue trials, indicating that valence costs across the three encoding conditions were equivalent. Old-old adults’ PM accuracy was reduced relative to both young-old and younger adults. Prospective remembering incurred dual-task costs for all three groups. Analyses of reaction time data suggested that for both young-old and old-old, these costs were greater, implying differential resource allocation cost trade-offs. However, when reaction time data were expressed as a proportional change that adjusted for the general slowing of the older adults, costs did not differ as a function of group.

Citation Key1701
Refereed DesignationRefereed

Differential effects of emotional cues on components of prospective memory: An ERP study

TitleDifferential effects of emotional cues on components of prospective memory: An ERP study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsCona, G, Kliegel, M, Bisiacchi, PS
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Keywordsdelayed intentions, emotion, ERPs, event-related potentials, LPP, neural, PLS, prospective memory

So far, little is known about the neurocognitive mechanisms associated with emotion effects on prospective memory (PM) performance. Thus, this study aimed at disentangling possible mechanisms for the effects of emotional valence of PM cues on the distinct phases composing PM by investigating event-related potentials (ERPs). Participants were engaged in an ongoing N-back task while being required to perform a PM task. The emotional valence of both the ongoing pictures and the PM cues was manipulated (pleasant, neutral, unpleasant). ERPs were recorded during the PM phases, such as encoding, maintenance, and retrieval of the intention. A recognition task including PM cues and ongoing stimuli was also performed at the end of the sessions. ERP results suggest that emotional PM cues not only trigger an automatic, bottom-up, capture of attention, but also boost a greater allocation of top-down processes. These processes seem to be recruited to hold attention toward the emotional stimuli and to retrieve the intention from memory, likely because of the motivational significance of the emotional stimuli. Moreover, pleasant PM cues seemed to modulate especially the prospective component, as revealed by changes in the amplitude of the ERP correlates of strategic monitoring as a function of the relevance of the valence for the PM task. Unpleasant pictures seemed to modulate especially the retrospective component, as revealed by the largest old/new effect being elicited by unpleasant PM pictures in the recognition task.

Citation Key1700
Refereed DesignationRefereed

Performance of smokers with DSM-5 tobacco use disorder in time-based complex prospective memory

TitlePerformance of smokers with DSM-5 tobacco use disorder in time-based complex prospective memory
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsBehrendt, S, Kliegel, M, Kräplin, A, Bühringer, G
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Keywordsdependence, nicotine, prospective memory, smoking, substance use disorder

Studies that investigate time-based complex prospective memory (PM) functioning in participants with substance use disorders (SUD) in consideration of different PM-phases (planning, retention, initiation, execution) are lacking. This study was designed to investigate performance of young adults with DSM-5 tobacco use disorder (TUD) and healthy controls (HC) in different phases of complex PM. Community participants aged 18–35 (N = 43) completed the modified Six Elements Test that includes the PM-phases planning, retention, initiation, and execution of a time-based complex PM-task (with delay phases and background activities). TUD participants were current daily smokers and fulfilled at least two DSM-5 TUD criteria. TUD did not differ significantly from HC in task planning errors and timely task initiation. No group differences showed in rule adherence and completeness during task conduction (execution). During execution, TUD showed significantly more deviations (Coef. 0.45; p = 0.005) from their originally remembered plans than HC. Young adults with relatively mild TUD do not show general impairments in all phases of short-term, complex, and time-based PM. Future research may investigate whether a greater risk of deviation from originally remembered plans in TUD could play a role in the progression and cessation of smoking behavior.

Citation Key1699
Refereed DesignationRefereed
PubMed ID26147993

Emotional valence differentially affects encoding and retrieval of prospective memory in older adults

TitleEmotional valence differentially affects encoding and retrieval of prospective memory in older adults
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsBallhausen, N, Rendell, PG, Henry, JD, Joeffry, S, Kliegel, M
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Keywordsaging, emotion, encoding, prospective memory, retrieval

Studies manipulating emotional valence in prospective memory (PM) have so far revealed inconsistent results. In the present study, two experiments were conducted to systematically disentangle the effects of varying emotional valence in the encoding versus retrieval phase of PM in older adults. Results showed that, while cue valence at retrieval had no influence on PM performance, at encoding both positive and negative valence resulted in reduced PM performance. Findings suggest that emotional valence may have an influence on mnemonic processes at encoding rather than modifying cue detection in aging.

Citation Key1698
Refereed DesignationRefereed
PubMed ID25633458

Future thinking improves prospective memory performance and plan enactment in older adults

TitleFuture thinking improves prospective memory performance and plan enactment in older adults
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsAltgassen, M, Rendell, PG, Bernhard, A, Henry, JD, Bailey, PE, Phillips, LH, Kliegel, M
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Keywordsaging, future thinking, imagery, planning, prospective memory

Efficient intention formation might improve prospective memory by reducing the need for resource-demanding strategic processes during the delayed performance interval. The present study set out to test this assumption and provides the first empirical assessment of whether imagining a future action improves prospective memory performance equivalently at different stages of the adult lifespan. Thus, younger (n = 40) and older (n = 40) adults were asked to complete the Dresden Breakfast Task, which required them to prepare breakfast in accordance with a set of rules and time restrictions. All participants began by generating a plan for later enactment; however, after making this plan, half of the participants were required to imagine themselves completing the task in the future (future thinking condition), while the other half received standard instructions (control condition). As expected, overall younger adults outperformed older adults. Moreover, both older and younger adults benefited equally from future thinking instructions, as reflected in a higher proportion of prospective memory responses and more accurate plan execution. Thus, for both younger and older adults, imagining the specific visual–spatial context in which an intention will later be executed may serve as an easy-to-implement strategy that enhances prospective memory function in everyday life.

Citation Key1697
Refereed DesignationRefereed
PubMed ID25191929