Monthly
208 pp. per issue
8 1/2 x 11, illustrated
ISSN
0898-929X
E-ISSN
1530-8898
2014 Impact factor:
4.69

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

September 2017, Vol. 29, No. 9, Pages 1483-1497
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01159)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Enhancing Spatial Attention and Working Memory in Younger and Older Adults
Article PDF (3.14 MB)
Abstract

Daily experiences demand both focused and broad allocation of attention for us to interact efficiently with our complex environments. Many types of attention have shown age-related decline, although there is also evidence that such deficits may be remediated with cognitive training. However, spatial attention abilities have shown inconsistent age-related differences, and the extent of potential enhancement of these abilities remains unknown. Here, we assessed spatial attention in both healthy younger and older adults and trained this ability in both age groups for 5 hr over the course of 2 weeks using a custom-made, computerized mobile training application. We compared training-related gains on a spatial attention assessment and spatial working memory task to age-matched controls who engaged in expectancy-matched, active placebo computerized training. Age-related declines in spatial attention abilities were observed regardless of task difficulty. Spatial attention training led to improved focused and distributed attention abilities as well as improved spatial working memory in both younger and older participants. No such improvements were observed in either of the age-matched control groups. Note that these findings were not a function of improvements in simple response time, as basic motoric function did not change after training. Furthermore, when using change in simple response time as a covariate, all findings remained significant. These results suggest that spatial attention training can lead to enhancements in spatial working memory regardless of age.