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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2011 Jul;66(4):444-53. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbr031. Epub 2011 May 17.

Initial cognitive performance predicts longitudinal aviator performance.

Author information

  • 1Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA 94304-1207, USA. yesavage@stanford.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

The goal of the study was to improve prediction of longitudinal flight simulator performance by studying cognitive factors that may moderate the influence of chronological age.

METHOD:

We examined age-related change in aviation performance in aircraft pilots in relation to baseline cognitive ability measures and aviation expertise. Participants were aircraft pilots (N = 276) aged 40-77.9. Flight simulator performance and cognition were tested yearly; there were an average of 4.3 (± 2.7; range 1-13) data points per participant. Each participant was classified into one of the three levels of aviation expertise based on Federal Aviation Administration pilot proficiency ratings: least, moderate, or high expertise.

RESULTS:

Addition of measures of cognitive processing speed and executive function to a model of age-related change in aviation performance significantly improved the model. Processing speed and executive function performance interacted such that the slowest rate of decline in flight simulator performance was found in aviators with the highest scores on tests of these abilities. Expertise was beneficial to pilots across the age range studied; however, expertise did not show evidence of reducing the effect of age.

DISCUSSION:

These data suggest that longitudinal performance on an important real-world activity can be predicted by initial assessment of relevant cognitive abilities.

PMID:
21586627
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3132267
Free PMC Article
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