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Psychol Aging. 2011 Dec;26(4):813-22. doi: 10.1037/a0023631. Epub 2011 Jun 27.

Working memory training and transfer in older adults.

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Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.


There has been a great deal of interest, both privately and commercially, in using working memory training exercises to improve general cognitive function. However, many of the laboratory findings for older adults, a group in which this training is of utmost interest, are discouraging due to the lack of transfer to other tasks and skills. Importantly, improvements in everyday functioning remain largely unexamined in relation to WM training. We trained working memory in older adults using a task that encourages transfer in young adults (Chein & Morrison, 2010). We tested transfer to measures of working memory (e.g., Reading Span), everyday cognitive functioning [the Test of Everyday Attention (TEA) and the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT)], and other tasks of interest. Relative to controls, trained participants showed transfer improvements in Reading Span and the number of repetitions on the CVLT. Training group participants were also significantly more likely to self-report improvements in everyday attention. Our findings support the use of ecological tasks as a measure of transfer in an older adult population.

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