Learning and Remembering in Older Adults and Older Adults with Neurocognitive Disorders
Peer reviewed, Doctoral thesis
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Many countries face a demographic change with an aging society. Accompanying those changes are increased frequency in diseases that have their onset later in life. Among such diseases are neurocognitive disorders (NCDs) such as Alzheimer’s disease. The various NCDs have in common to negatively affect the individual’s social and occupational functioning with deterioration in cognitive behaviors, such as learning and remembering. Therefore, it is important to facilitate an understanding of different variables affecting these behaviors. Currently, there are, however, only few studies within the behavior analytic literature examining such complex behavior in the older population. The purpose of the current dissertation was to study variables affecting learning and remembering in older adults and NCD patients. The dissertation is based on five studies. The first two studies were with healthy older adults. Study 1 examined the effect of presenting identity matching-to-sample (MTS) before arbitrary MTS, and vice versa, on the establishment of baseline conditional discrimination and stimulus equivalence class formation, along with studying the effect of using simultaneous MTS versus 0-s delayed MTS. Study 2 examined eye-movements during establishment of baseline conditional discrimination and during testing for responding in accordance with stimulus equivalence. Studies 3–5 had participants with NCD diagnoses. Study 3 examined discrimination behavior in NCD patient using different conditional discrimination procedures. Study 4 examined the effect of using two or three comparison stimuli in conditional discrimination learning along with the use of simultaneous versus 0-s delayed MTS. Finally, Study 5 examined the effect of using different titration values in a titrating delayed MTS procedure. The five studies have extended the current literature by showing how systematic, though subtle changes in the procedures can have a great impact on participants’ responses. The general conclusion is that the different conditional discrimination procedures are highly applicable to study variables affecting learning and remembering in each person. Understanding the application of the different procedures allows for identification of each individuals abilities and disabilities. The information may in turn be used in an applied setting, which may be of particular interest when working with NCD patients.