This project will identify mechanisms underlying age-related changes in cognition and action. Two general hypotheses as to the specific nature of these mechanisms will guide the research. Under one hypothesis, inhibitory processes become less effective in older adults, while under the other, age weakens connections between nodes or representations in memory, so that activity transmitted from one unit to another declines with age. Empirical support for one or the other hypothesis that will emerge from the proposed research promises to have a major impact on the field, and to increase our understanding of basic processes underlying comprehension, memory, and production of language and other cognitive skills. By examining a set of phenomena that have rarely if ever been examined in older adults, e.g., misspelling, repetition deafness, semantic blindness, comprehension of negative sentences and ambiguous words, microslips, action errors, and the ability to describe actions while producing them, the project promises to fill several gaps in our knowledge. Moreover, the projects focuses on tasks and phenomena where older adults are predicted to exhibit superior performance to young adults have been the main focus. The project also carries practical implications for many areas of cognitive psychology, from the everyday difficulties of older adults in learning and using new information, to teaching techniques for adults education programs. Three sets of studies are proposed. The first set investigates effects of age on fundamental components of language comprehension and reasoning. A second set of studies examines age-related changes in the ability of encode information for later recall. A third set os studies examines effects of aging on errors in speech and everyday actions of young and older adults.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
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University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Los Angeles
United States
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MacKay, Donald G; James, Lori E; Hadley, Christopher B et al. (2011) Speech errors of amnesic H.M.: unlike everyday slips-of-the-tongue. Cortex 47:377-408
MacKay, Donald G; James, Lori E (2009) Visual cognition in amnesic H.M.: selective deficits on the What's-Wrong-Here and Hidden-Figure tasks. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 31:769-89
MacKay, Donald G; James, Lori E; Hadley, Christopher B (2008) Amnesic H.M.'s performance on the language competence test: parallel deficits in memory and sentence production. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 30:280-300
MacKay, Donald G; James, Lori E (2004) Sequencing, speech production, and selective effects of aging on phonological and morphological speech errors. Psychol Aging 19:93-107
MacKay, Donald G; Shafto, Meredith; Taylor, Jennifer K et al. (2004) Relations between emotion, memory, and attention: evidence from taboo stroop, lexical decision, and immediate memory tasks. Mem Cognit 32:474-88
James, L E; MacKay, D G (2001) H.M., word knowledge, and aging: support for a new theory of long-term retrograde amnesia. Psychol Sci 12:485-92
MacKay, D G (2001) A tale of two paradigms or metatheoretical approaches to cognitive neuropsychology: did Schmolck, Stefanacci, and Squire (2000) show that hippocampal lesions only impair memory, whereas adjacent (extrahippocampal) lesions impair detection and explanation Brain Lang 78:265-72; discussion 273-5
MacKay, D G; Stewart, R; Burke, D M (1998) H.M. revisited: relations between language comprehension, memory, and the hippocampal system. J Cogn Neurosci 10:377-94
MacKay, D G; Abrams, L; Pedroza, M J et al. (1996) Cross-language facilitation, semantic blindness, and the relation between language and memory: a reply to Altarriba and Soltano. Mem Cognit 24:712-8
MacKay, D G; Miller, M D; Schuster, S P (1994) Repetition blindness and aging: evidence for a binding deficit involving a single, theoretically specified connection. Psychol Aging 9:251-8