Working memory training and transfer in older adults: Effects of age, baseline performance, and training gains.
Recent studies suggest that working memory training may benefit older adults; however, findings regarding training and transfer effects are mixed. The current study aimed to investigate the effects of a process-based training intervention in a diverse sample of older adults and explored possible moderators of training and transfer effects. For that purpose, 80 older adults (65–95 years) were assigned either to a training group that worked on visuospatial, verbal, and executive working memory tasks for 9 sessions over 3 weeks or to a control group. Performance on trained and transfer tasks was assessed in all participants before and after the training period, as well as at a 9-month follow-up. Analyses revealed significant training effects in all 3 training tasks in trained participants relative to controls, as well as near transfer to a verbal working memory task and far transfer to a fluid intelligence task. Encouragingly, all training effects and the transfer effect to verbal working memory were stable at the 9-month follow-up session. Further analyses revealed that training gains were predicted by baseline performance in training tasks and (to a lesser degree) by age. Gains in transfer tasks were predicted by age and by the amount of improvement in the trained tasks. These findings suggest that cognitive plasticity is preserved over a large range of old age and that even a rather short training regime can lead to (partly specific) training and transfer effects. However, baseline performance, age, and training gains moderate the amount of plasticity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)