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Front Hum Neurosci. 2012 May 11;6:130. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00130. eCollection 2012.

Training-induced improvement of response selection and error detection in aging assessed by task switching: effects of cognitive, physical, and relaxation training.

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  • 1Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors Dortmund, Germany.

Abstract

Cognitive control functions decline with increasing age. The present study examines if different types of group-based and trainer-guided training effectively enhance performance of older adults in a task switching task, and how this expected enhancement is reflected in changes of cognitive functions, as measured in electrophysiological brain activity (event-related potentials). One hundred forty-one healthy participants aged 65 years and older were randomly assigned to one of four groups: physical training (combined aerobic and strength training), cognitive training (paper-pencil and computer-aided), relaxation and wellness (social control group), and a control group that did not receive any intervention. Training sessions took place twice a week for 90 min for a period of 4 months. The results showed a greater improvement of performance for attendants of the cognitive training group compared to the other groups. This improvement was evident in a reduction of mixing costs in accuracy and intraindividual variability of speed, indexing improved maintenance of multiple task sets in working memory, and an enhanced coherence of neuronal processing. These findings were supported by event-related brain potentials which showed higher amplitudes in a number of potentials associated with response selection (N2), allocation of cognitive resources (P3b), and error detection (Ne). Taken together, our findings suggest neurocognitive plasticity of aging brains which can be stimulated by broad and multilayered cognitive training and assessed in detail by electrophysiological methods.

KEYWORDS:

ERPs; N2; Ne; aging; cognitive training; physical training; response selection; task switching

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