Examining the Effects of LACE Training on Cognitive Function in Older Adults : An ERP Study

Brandon D. Peacock

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, March 27, 2015.

Abstract

Aging is known to bring changes and decline to the human brain and body, especially in hearing. Cognition can decline with age alone, but can be accelerated when hearing is impaired. Cognitive decline can affect older adults’ everyday lives, particularly when it comes to driving. Driving cessation is also associated with mental depression, which can lead to heart disease or other serious health conditions. However, there are cognitive training programs that are designed to promote brain plasticity and create new neural pathways. Event Related Potentials (ERPs) can be used to show the neurophysiological changes in cognition that follow such training. The P3a is associated with involuntary attention as well as inhibition. In this study, a well-developed cognitive training program, Listening and Communication Enhancement (LACE), is used to see if older adults can slow or reverse age-related cognitive decline. Participants (n=18) were tested during three sessions (baseline, pre-training, and post-training) using an attentional blink (AB) paradigm. The AB task was measured with a short stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) and a long SOA. Training occurred during the pre-training session but after participants had been tested, then again during the post-training. Electroencephalography (EEG) recordings were taken at each session during AB testing. Results showed that participants’ P3a mean amplitude for short SOA decreased across sessions, specifically after training had occurred. P3 mean amplitude for long SOA did not significantly change at all. This would suggest that training helped older adults reverse the age-related cognitive decline.