Processing speed and visuo-spatial executive function predict visual working memory ability in older adults

Brown, LA, Brockmole, JR, Gow, AJ and Deary, IJ, 2012. Processing speed and visuo-spatial executive function predict visual working memory ability in older adults. Experimental Aging Research, 38, pp. 1-19.


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Background/Study Context: Visual working memory (VWM) has been shown to be particularly age-sensitive. Determining which measures share variance with this cognitive ability in older adults may help to elucidate the key factors underlying the effects of aging. Methods: Predictors of VWM (measured by a modified Visual Patterns Test) were investigated in a sub-sample (N = 44, mean age = 73) of older adults from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (LBC1936; Deary et al., 2007). Childhood intelligence (Moray House Test) and contemporaneous measures of processing speed (four-choice reaction time), executive function (verbal fluency; block design), and spatial working memory (backward spatial span), were assessed as potential predictors. Results: All contemporaneous measures except verbal fluency were significantly associated with VWM, and processing speed had the largest effect size (r = -.53, p < .001). In linear regression analysis, even after adjusting for childhood intelligence, processing speed and the executive measure associated with visuo-spatial organization accounted for 35% of the variance in VWM. Conclusion: Processing speed may affect VWM performance in older adults via speed of encoding and/or rate of rehearsal, while executive resources specifically associated with visuo-spatial material are also important.

Item Type: Journal article
Description: This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in Experimental Aging Research 2012 © Taylor & Francis, available online at:
Publication Title: Experimental Aging Research
Creators: Brown, L.A., Brockmole, J.R., Gow, A.J. and Deary, I.J.
Date: 2012
Volume: 38
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Added: 09 Oct 2015 11:05
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2016 09:13

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