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Getting the Brain into Gear – An Online Study

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


The world population is ageing rapidly and with a rapidly ageing population, dementia also becomes more prevalent (United Nations, 2020). It is crucial to understand the mechanisms involved in healthy cognitive ageing and what factors prevent or delay dementia. Healthy ageing is related to word-finding difficulties, which occur around 40 or 50 years old (Kavé & Knafo-Noam, 2015). Cognitive reserve (CR) is defined as the ability to use cognitive processes efficiently and flexibly, to compensate for age-related cognitive decline (Stern et al., 2020). CR is measured through, among others, lifetime experiences, such as education, and cognitively stimulating activities, such as reading. Investigating age-related word-finding difficulties and the effect of a healthy lifestyle can inform us about early neuropsychological markers of dementia (Livingston et al., 2020; Wright, 2016). This online study aimed to investigate the relationship between age-related word-finding difficulties and CR in 90 healthy adults in the age ranges of 18-30, 40-55, and 65-80 years (30 participants per group). Participants are right-handed, monolingual speakers of British-English, with no history of or current psychiatric, neurological, or speech/language disorders. We quantified CR through questionnaires on lifetime experiences and word-finding abilities through picture-naming and verbal fluency tasks, controlling for the effects of working memory, executive functioning, and processing speed. We finished data collection and started analysing the data. We expect that adults aged 65-80 will have difficulties with word-finding due to age-related cognitive decline, resulting in slower reaction times in the picture-naming tasks. Since frequently used words are more easily accessed from memory (Gordon et al., 2018), we expect older participants (aged 65-80) to use a higher proportion of high-frequent words in the verbal fluency task than younger adults. Finally, we expect that high levels of CR in the older adults will result in better performance on the language tasks, resembling that of the younger adults.

Gordon, J. K., Young, M., & Garcia, C. (2018). Why do older adults have difficulty with semantic fluency? Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 25(6), 803–828. https://doi.org/10.1080/13825585.2017.1374328
Kavé, G., & Knafo-Noam, A. (2015). Lifespan development of phonemic and semantic fluency: Universal increase, differential decrease. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 37(7), 751–763. https://doi.org/10.1080/13803395.2015.1065958
Livingston, G., Huntley, J., Sommerlad, A., Ames, D., Ballard, C., Banerjee, S., Brayne, C., Burns, A., Cohen-Mansfield, J., Cooper, C., Costafreda, S. G., Dias, A., Fox, N., Gitlin, L. N., Howard, R., Kales, H. C., Kivimäki, M., Larson, E. B., Ogunniyi, A., … Mukadam, N. (2020). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The Lancet, 396(10248), 413–446. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30367-6
Stern, Y., Arenaza-Urquijo, E. M., Bartrés-Faz, D., Belleville, S., Cantilon, M., Chetelat, G., Ewers, M., Franzmeier, N., Kempermann, G., Kremen, W. S., Okonkwo, O., Scarmeas, N., Soldan, A., Udeh-Momoh, C., Valenzuela, M., Vemuri, P., Vuoksimaa, E., & and the Reserve, R. and P. F. P. E. D. and C. F. W. (2020). Whitepaper: Defining and investigating cognitive reserve, brain reserve, and brain maintenance. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 16(9), 1305–1311. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2018.07.219
United Nations. (2020). World population ageing, 2019 highlights.
Wright, H. H. (2016). Cognition, Language and Aging. John Benjamins Publishing Company. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/lancaster/detail.action?docID=4441477

Electronic data

Event (Conference)

TitleLancaster University Psychology PGR conference
Date24/05/21 → …
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom