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Front Aging Neurosci. 2017 May 9;9:133. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00133. eCollection 2017.

Active Experiencing Training Improves Episodic Memory Recall in Older Adults.

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Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbana, IL, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbana, IL, USA.
Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of IowaIowa City, IA, USA.
Department of Theatre, Elmhurst CollegeElmhurst, IL, USA.
Psychology Department, Elmhurst CollegeElmhurst, IL, USA.
Departments of Psychology and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern UniversityBoston, MA, USA.


Active experiencing (AE) is an intervention aimed at attenuating cognitive declines with mindfulness training via an immersive acting program, and has produced promising results in older adults with limited formal education. Yet, the cognitive mechanism(s) of intervention benefits and generalizability of gains across cognitive domains in the course of healthy aging is unclear. We addressed these issues in an intervention trial of older adults (N = 179; mean age = 69.46 years at enrollment; mean education = 16.80 years) assigned to an AE condition (n = 86) or an active control group (i.e., theatre history; n = 93) for 4 weeks. A cognitive battery was administered before and after intervention, and again at a 4-month follow-up. Group differences in change in cognition were tested in latent change score models (LCSM). In the total sample, several cognitive abilities demonstrated significant repeated-testing gains. AE produced greater gains relative to the active control only in episodic recall, with gains still evident up to 4 months after intervention. Intervention conditions were similar in the magnitude of gains in working memory, executive function and processing speed. Episodic memory is vulnerable to declines in aging and related neurodegenerative disease, and AE may be an alternative or supplement to traditional cognitive interventions with older adults.


acting; aging; cognition; intervention; memory; theater

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