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Thomas Van Vleet, Joseph DeGutis, Michael Merzenich; Tonic and Phasic Alertness Training Enhances Executive Function, Working Memory, and Skill Acquisition in Older Adults. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1340. doi: 10.1167/15.12.1340.
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The ability to sustain attention gradually declines with age, exacerbating normal decays in performance across multiple cognitive domains. In addition, poor sustained attention may impair efficient learning of new information and skills. Previous studies have shown that it is possible to enhance sustained attention in patients with severely impaired abilities, such as hemispatial neglect and traumatic brain injury, and that this generalizes to improvements in spatial attention and more global cognitive improvements (DeGutis & Van Vleet, 2010; Van Vleet et al., 2014). However, it is unclear whether 1) sustained attention can be enhanced in less impaired, healthy aging individuals and 2) whether these sustained attention improvements can transfer to improvements in relevant outcomes such as executive functioning and visuospatial skill learning. In experiment 1 we sought to test, in older adults, whether tonic and phasic attention training (TAPAT) can improve sustained attention and if this transfers to improvements on validated neuropsychological tests of executive functioning. In experiment 2, we sought to replicate these effects and further examine whether TAPAT can enhance skill learning on a visuospatial divided attention task which has shown to be related to driving performance (useful field of view task, UFOV). The results demonstrate that, compared to active control training, TAPAT enhanced sustained attention and that this transferred to improved executive functions. We also found that TAPAT, compared to active control training, enhanced rates of learning on the UFOV task. This novel approach to enhance sustained attention may serve to facilitate greater benefit across a wide range of learning tasks.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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