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Title:The effects of verbal working memory training on language comprehension in older adulthood
Author(s):Payne, Brennan
Director of Research:Stine-Morrow, Elizabeth A.L.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Stine-Morrow, Elizabeth A.L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Federmeier, Kara D.; Watson, Duane G.; Christianson, Kiel
Department / Program:Educational Psychology
Discipline:Educational Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):working memory
cognitive aging
sentence comprehension
Abstract:Effective language understanding is crucial to maintaining cognitive abilities and learning new information through adulthood. However, age-related changes in cognitive abilities such as working memory (WM) have a profound influence on the products of language comprehension (e.g., problem solving, learning, following instructions). At the same time, the effects of age and working memory on the moment-to-moment processes underlying language comprehension are less well understood. The current project tests the causal role of working memory in language among older adults by examining the effects of a short-term working memory training program on changes in language comprehension. This dissertation describes the development of the iTrain program, a novel home-based computerized training program targeting complex verbal WM performance, and describes the results from a single 3-week randomized controlled training experiment testing the efficacy of iTrain on improving verbal working memory, language processing, and language comprehension outcomes in older adults. Results showed that individuals in the WM training group showed substantial improvements in the trained WM tasks and transfer to untrained verbal WM tasks. Additionally, results suggested that training led to selective improvements in aspects of language comprehension relative to an active control group, including improvements in sentence recall, verbal fluency, and comprehension of syntactically ambiguous sentences. Results from eye tracking did not reveal effects of training on on-line language processing. The results from this study provide some of the first causal evidence for the influence of WM on comprehension in aging.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Brennan R. Payne
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

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