Memory Deficits in Older Adults: Evaluating Spaced Retrieval With Multiple Probe Techniques

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Difficulties in recalling the names of individuals is a common behavioral symptom of neurocognitive disorder. A number of behavioral strategies have been proposed to improve memory deficits, including spaced retrieval, an intervention that emphasizes delayed recall of target information. Unfortunately, many of the studies that report beneficial effects of spaced retrieval use a very limited range of outcome measures, thus calling into question the magnitude and generality of any reported memory improvement. This study reports on the impact of spaced retrieval using 4 older adults with cognitive impairment living in an assisted living facility. All participants demonstrated difficulty naming and recalling names of staff members at the facility who provided care. A replicated ABC design with embedded probes was used to evaluate the effects of spaced retrieval on the acquisition, delayed recall, and generalization of naming a target staff member. Probe measures included a nonidentity matching-to-sample task, naming in the presence of untrained photographs of the target staff member, and naming during brief video presentations of the target staff member. Nonexample presentations were also interspersed. Spaced retrieval resulted in within-session increases in recall for all participants, and also resulted in minimal evidence of generalization across probe measures, including live-person probes. Modified spaced retrieval interventions were then employed to address stimulus control deficits. These modified conditions resulted in further gains in delayed recall performance, as well as improved generalization across probes. These results are discussed in the context of previous research with spaced retrieval. Future directions are also discussed.

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