Petra Grönholm-Nyman

Abo Akademi University, Department of Psychology and Logopedics

Turku, Finland

Petra Gronholm-Nyman

 Project

Conigitive training in normal and aging and Mild Congitive Impairment.

Summary

The aim of this project is to study functional improvement in normal aging and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI in a particularly important cognitive domain, namely the high-level control of human behaviour coined as executive functions, which are crucial for learning new information and skills. These functions refer to goal-directed, flexible use of cognitive abilities eg sustaining, dividing and shifting attention according to task demands, inhibiting inappropriate responses, and solving problems. Executive functions enable humans to function in a coherent manner, to plan ahead, and to control their behaviour in continuously changing circumstances in an adaptive way.  Given the effects that executive dysfunction has on various situations and populations, it is of particular interest to find out whether these functions can be improved with practice.

This bears direct relevance to the development of cognitive rehabilitation. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has become an important research topic, as patients with this condition have been shown to be at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. In this project, the trainability of two closely related executive domains, flexible shifting between tasks, and working memory updating, as well as the training effects' generalization into other executive functions, will be addressed in healthy elderly adults and patients with MCI. In order to learn new information, humans also need another form of executive functioning, namely metcognitive strategies. Metacognition includes selecting a strategy, applying a strategy and monitoring the success of the strategy. In this research project the effects of semantic and phonological memory strategies in MCI patients' new word learning will be explored. This will be investigated by using a modification of a previously used experimental world learning paradigm, in which names of 40 unfamiliar objects (mainly archaic tools) are trained.

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