The Response-Signal Method Reveals Age-Related Changes in Object Working Memory

Kumar, Arjun; Rakitin, Brian C.; Nambisan, Rohit; Habeck, Christian G.; Stern, Yaakov

Sixteen healthy young adults (ages 18-32) and 16 healthy older adults (ages 67-81) completed a delayed response task in which they saw the following visual sequence: memory stimuli (2 abstract shapes; 3,000 ms), a blank delay (5,000 ms), a probe stimulus of variable duration (one abstract shape; 125, 250, 500, 1,000, or 2,000 ms), and a mask (500 ms). Subjects decided whether the probe stimulus matched either of the memory stimuli; they were instructed to respond during the mask, placing greater emphasis on speed than accuracy. The authors used D. L. Hintzman & T. Curran's (1994) 3-parameter compound bounded exponential model of speed-accuracy tradeoff to describe changes in discriminability associated with total processing time. Group-level analysis revealed a higher rate parameter and a higher asymptote parameter for the young adult group, but no difference across groups in x-intercept. Proxy measures of cognitive reserve (Y. Stern et al., 2005) predicted the rate parameter value, particularly in older adults. Results suggest that in working memory, aging impairs both the maximum capacity for discriminability and the rate of information accumulation, but not the temporal threshold for discriminability.


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Psychology and Aging

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February 24, 2018