Rose, N., Rendell, P., Hering, A., Kliegel, M., Bidelman, G. & Craik, F. (2015). Cognitive and neural plasticity in older adults prospective memory following training with the virtual week computer game. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (online),9(592), 1-13. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00592
Prospective memory (PM) – the ability to remember and successfully execute our intentions and planned activities – is critical for functional independence and declines with age, yet few studies have attempted to train PM in older adults. We developed a PM training program using the Virtual Week computer game. Trained participants played the game in 12, 1-h sessions over 1 month. Measures of neuropsychological functions, lab-based PM, event-related potentials (ERPs) during performance on a lab-based PM task, instrumental activities of daily living, and real-world PM were assessed before and after training. Performance was compared to both no-contact and active (music training) control groups. PM on the Virtual Week game dramatically improved following training relative to controls, suggesting PM plasticity is preserved in older adults. Relative to control participants, training did not produce reliable transfer to laboratory-based tasks, but was associated with a reduction of an ERP component (sustained negativity over occipito-parietal cortex) associated with processing PM cues, indicative of more automatic PM retrieval. Most importantly, training produced far transfer to real-world outcomes including improvements in performance on real-world PM and activities of daily living. Real-world gains were not observed in either control group. Our findings demonstrate that short-term training with the Virtual Week game produces cognitive and neural plasticity that may result in real-world benefits to supporting functional independence in older adulthood.
Open Access Journal Article