Intraindividual Variability of Proactive Control in Cognitive and Motor Aging

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Older adults exhibit a significantly greater risk of falling than young adults partially as a function of normative age-related declines in executive control processes. The Dual Mechanisms of Control model examines age-sensitive executive functions, such as working memory, through the use of proactive and reactive modes of cognitive control [1]. However, age differences in cognitive control processes have yet to be examined in the context of intra-individual variability [2]. Given the known age-related declines in working memory capacity with normative aging, the current research investigated the role of intra-individual variability of proactive control in young and older adults using a computerized AX-CPT paradigm. The importance of postural control within the aging population led to further investigations on the translation of variability to the postural domain, which was examined using an adapted Balance AX-CPT paradigm. Proactive and reactive control were operationalized as anticipatory and compensatory postural adjustments in response to both predictable and unpredictable platform perturbations. An independent indicator of working memory (the Letter Number Sequencing task) significantly predicted our measure of intra-individual variability of proactive control (t = -3.012, p = .004, partial correlation r = -.410), which in turn predicted a moderate but not significant amount of variance in postural variability (partial correlation r = -.240). The present findings overall provide preliminary evidence that working memory processes are involved in age-related declines in postural control.


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