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Biol Psychol. 2010 Oct;85(2):187-99. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.06.009. Epub 2010 Jul 3.

Effects of aging and job demands on cognitive flexibility assessed by task switching.

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Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, WHO Collaborating Research Centre Dortmund, Germany.


In a cross-sectional, electrophysiological study 91 workers of a big car factory performed a series of switch tasks to assess their cognitive control functions. Four groups of workers participated in the study: 23 young and 23 middle aged assembly line employees and 22 young and 23 middle aged employees with flexible job demands like service and maintenance. Participants performed three digit categorisation tasks. In addition to single task blocks, a cue-based (externally guided) and a memory-based (internally guided) task switch block was administered. Compared to young participants, older ones showed the typical RT-decline. No differences between younger and older participants regarding the local switch costs could be detected despite the source of the current task information. In contrast, whereas the groups did not differ in mixing costs in the cued condition, clear performance decrements in the memory-based mixing block were observed in the group of older employees with repetitive work demands. These findings were corroborated by a number of electrophysiological results showing a reduced CNV suggesting an impairment of task specific preparation, an attenuated P3b suggesting reduced working memory capacity and a decreased Ne suggesting deficits in error monitoring in older participants with repetitive job demands. The results are compatible with the assumption that long lasting, unchallenging job demands may induce several neurocognitive impairments which are already evident in the early fifties. Longitudinal studies are needed to confirm this assumption.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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