Osaka,M.,Yaoi,K., Otsuka, Y., Katsuhara, M., & Osaka, N


Practice on conflict tasks promotes executive function of working memory

in the elderly.


Behavioural Brain Research





Effects of practice on a conflict task in elderly individuals are

examined with a focus on its impact on executive function in working

memory. During a short-term practice period, healthy elderly

participants practiced switching attention using a Stroop task that

involved a conflict between a task relevant stimulus and an irrelevant

stimulus. To explore neural substrates underlying practice effects, two

working memory tasks were used: a focus reading span test (F-RST) and a

non-focus reading span test (NF-RST); the NF-RST test demanded greater

switching attention due to a conflict between the relevant task stimulus

and an irrelevant task stimulus, thus requiring an attention switch from

the latter to the former. Following the Stroop task practice, fMRI data

showed that participants who had engaged in practice had significant

increases in activation in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the left

inferior parietal lobule (IPL), the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

(DLPFC) and the precuneus regions during the NF-RST. By contrast, a

control group, which did not practice, showed no significant increases

in these regions. Results suggest that practice on conflict tasks in

elderly individuals activated regions related to conflict perceiving and

attention switching regions as well as attention-maintenance regions

thereby improving performance on tasks requiring a high degree of

attention control of working memory.

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