Modeling Learning and Memory Using Verbal Learning Tests: Results From ACTIVE

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Abstract

Objective.

To investigate the influence of memory training on initial recall and learning.

Method.

The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly study of community-dwelling adults older than age 65 (n = 1,401). We decomposed trial-level recall in the Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) and Hopkins Verbal Learning Test (HVLT) into initial recall and learning across trials using latent growth models.

Results.

Trial-level increases in words recalled in the AVLT and HVLT at each follow-up visit followed an approximately logarithmic shape. Over the 5-year study period, memory training was associated with slower decline in Trial 1 AVLT recall (Cohen’s d = 0.35, p = .03) and steep pre- and posttraining acceleration in learning (d = 1.56, p < .001). Findings were replicated using the HVLT (decline in initial recall, d = 0.60, p = .01; pre- and posttraining acceleration in learning, d = 3.10, p < .001). Because of the immediate training boost, the memory-trained group had a higher level of recall than the control group through the end of the 5-year study period despite faster decline in learning.

Discussion.

This study contributes to the understanding of the mechanisms by which training benefits memory and expands current knowledge by reporting long-term changes in initial recall and learning, as measured from growth models and by characterization of the impact of memory training on these components. Results reveal that memory training delays the worsening of memory span and boosts learning.

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