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The developmental trajectories of executive function from adolescence to old age

Ferguson, Heather J., Brunsdon, Victoria E.A., Bradford, Elisabeth E.F. (2021) The developmental trajectories of executive function from adolescence to old age. Scientific Reports, 11 . Article Number 1382. E-ISSN 2045-2322. (doi:10.1038/s41598-020-80866-1) (KAR id:85264)

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https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80866-1

Abstract

Executive functions demonstrate variable developmental and aging profiles, with protracted development into early adulthood and declines in older age. However, relatively few studies have specifically included middle-aged adults in investigations of age-related differences in executive functions. This study explored the age-related differences in executive function from late childhood through to old age, allowing a more informed understanding of executive functions across the lifespan. Three hundred and fifty participants aged 10 to 86 years-old completed a battery of tasks assessing the specific roles of inhibitory control, working memory, cognitive flexibility, and planning. Results highlighted continued improvement in working memory capacity across adolescence and into young adulthood, followed by declines in both working memory and inhibitory control, beginning from as early as 30-40 years old and continuing into older age. Analyses of planning abilities showed continued improvement across adolescence and into young adulthood, followed by a decline in abilities across adulthood, with a small (positive) change in older age. Interestingly, a dissociation was found for cognitive flexibility; switch costs decreased, yet mixing costs increased across the lifespan. The results provide a description of the developmental differences in inhibitory control, working memory, cognitive flexibility and planning, above any effects of IQ or SES, and highlight the importance of including middle-aged adults in studies seeking to establish a more comprehensive picture of age-related differences in executive function.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/s41598-020-80866-1
Uncontrolled keywords: executive function, aging, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, working memory, planning
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Heather Ferguson
Date Deposited: 01 Jan 2021 21:55 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:17 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/85264 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Ferguson, Heather J.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1575-4820
Brunsdon, Victoria E.A.: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6590-6880
Bradford, Elisabeth E.F.: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7647-0891
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