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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Sep 3;116(36):17735-17740. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1906788116. Epub 2019 Aug 19.

A large-scale analysis of task switching practice effects across the lifespan.

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Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697;
School of Social Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.


An important feature of human cognition is the ability to flexibly and efficiently adapt behavior in response to continuously changing contextual demands. We leverage a large-scale dataset from Lumosity, an online cognitive-training platform, to investigate how cognitive processes involved in cued switching between tasks are affected by level of task practice across the adult lifespan. We develop a computational account of task switching that specifies the temporal dynamics of activating task-relevant representations and inhibiting task-irrelevant representations and how they vary with extended task practice across a number of age groups. Practice modulates the level of activation of the task-relevant representation and improves the rate at which this information becomes available, but has little effect on the task-irrelevant representation. While long-term practice improves performance across all age groups, it has a greater effect on older adults. Indeed, extensive task practice can make older individuals functionally similar to less-practiced younger individuals, especially for cognitive measures that focus on the rate at which task-relevant information becomes available.


Bayesian modeling; aging effects; cognitive control; practice effects; task switching

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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