AGING EFFECT ON DIGIT SPAN TASK OF WORKING MEMORY OF HINDI SPEAKING ADULTS

NAVNIT KUMAR RESEARCH OFFICER DEPARTMENT OF SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY ALL INDIA INSTITUTE OF SPEECH AND HEARING ISHA MEMBERSHIP NO.: L 12092096 E-MAIL: navnitaiish@gmail.com

BRAJESH PRIYADARSHI LECTURER IN LINGUISTICS DEPARTMENT OF SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY ALL INDIA INSTITUTE OF SPEECH AND HEARING E-MAIL:brajeshaiish@gmail.com

PAPER SUBMITTED FOR 45TH ISHACON POSTER PRESENTATION (LANGUAGE)

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There were eight males and eight females 2 . Limited studies had focused on the pattern of decline of both these measures along with increased age. SD = 2. SD = 4.AGING EFFECT ON DIGIT SPAN TASK OF WORKING MEMORYOF HINDI SPEAKING ADULTS Abstract Introduction: Working memory (WM) has been described as a work-space that allows a cognitive system for short-term storage and manipulation of new information. The sample was divided into five groups according to age. involved the measurement of span. SD = 3. gender.5). in the age range of 40-to-above 80 years.12.7). Aim of study: The present study attempts to investigate the effect of aging on digit forward and backward span tasks of working memory on native Hindi healthy speakers. and culture may also influence to some extent. Amongst span tasks.25. Group IV: aged 71-80 years (M = 75.87. health conditions. which has been reactivated to perform a cognitive task (Baddeley. Method: Participants.. Nearly all measures of working memory developed till date.5). the digit Span test is one of the most commonly used measures of immediate verbal recall. Group II: aged 51-60 years (M = 55. attentional capacity in neuropsychological research and clinical evaluations (Conway et al.to-above 80 years. Although. SD = 2. and Group V: aged above 80 years (M = 84.above 80s years were recruited for the study. DFS and DBS is strongly influenced from aging. SD = 1.81.7).62.3). or shortterm storage and manipulation of previously learned information. b) digits backward span (DBS). 2005). Group III: aged 61-70 years (M = 65. Group I: aged 40-50 years (M = 45. a) digits forward span (DFS) and. 1986). Most of the studies looked for the span at different age groups. other variables like level of education language of a person. From the review of previous studies it is clear that age has a significant effect on decline of digit forward and backward span. This test comprises two modalities.A total of eighty native Hindi speaking adults within the age range of 40-to. The prime objective of the study is to look for the pattern of decline of digit forward and digit backward span tasks performance across the 40.

Hester.The result of present study showed that span for DF task was higher than DB.. p = ˂ 0..59 to 2) (Kaplan et al.00 was used for the statistical analysis. 1987). Our results indicated that.6. they had to complete sociocultural questionnaire. 1986. Wilde et al. After that. poor and very poor / below poverty line status. 2001). across all the age groups. Further.05 explored a significant difference between these tasks with t = 17.Scale for measuring the socioeconomic status of a family: to classify the subjects into upper high. 2004). 1991). Kinsella. although the rate of decline was not uniform with age.001]. The difference between the DFS and DBS was also found within the normal range (from 0. participants underwent digit span tasks so that their working memory may be evaluated.1..31. 2004). 1991. but pattern 3 . Working memory: Digit Span Test: The sets of digits were taken from the digit forward and digit backward subtest of “Cogni tiveLinguistic Assessment Protocol for Adults” (CLAP) in Kannada (Kamath.001. MINI. middle. The interviews were conducted under a neuropsychologist’s guidance. p = ˂ 0.9) was within normal range of 5-8 digits (Kaplan et al. 1974. 77) = 20. Finally the 10 percent of the audio-video recorded data were retested by three speech-language pathologists for inter-judge reliability. The working memory sub test constitutes DF and DB tasks. Result and Discussion: A commercially available statistical package for the Social Science (SPSS) version 16. revealed a significant group effect for the DF span [F (1. The participants were tested in a quiet. Lezak et al.g. and for DB span [F (1. Orsiniet al. Black. This finding was also similar to some of the previous studies (e. Hindi Mental State Examination (HMSE): to screen individuals with cognitive impairment.03. However the mean DBS (M = 3.001]. noise free environment at home or clinical setting. upper. 77) = 5.51.. At last.in each group. Procedures-Participation in this study was voluntary. 2004. In the present study. Two-tailed paired samples t-test with alpha set at . Instruments. p = ˂ 0. &Ong. lower middle... The mean DFS and DBS for each age group depict higher DFS than DBS.7) approximate towards the lowest value of normal range within 4-5 digits (Botwinick & Storand. and HMSE. At first participants signed an informed consent form. All the data was audio-video recorded with digital camera (Sony 1080). high. mean DFS (M = 5. Two-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was performed to compare the DFS and DBS tasks across age groups and gender. SD = 0. SD = 0.

they assumed that both DFS and DBS tasks uses central executive.. Thus. In the present study. Apart from this. This type of pattern was reported in one of the studies by Hester et al. The similarity of results between the two studies is because of the fact that an identical protocol was used in both the studies. that leads to greater rate of decline in DFS than DBS tasks. saturation in span takes place. (2004) where. Key words: Working memory. 1980.of decline was found to be similar for both the measures. Digit backward span 4 . the participant (N =80) is lesser than earlier study (N =1030). the study presents a scope for doing further research on comparing the influences of different languages on WM ability using DS tasks. Strigler & Lee. Secondly. Thirdly. gender has a significant effect on working memory. except the number of participants in the studies. the study indicates that normal aging affect the working memory abilities for DBS early across life span than DFS. the present study provides a data base for the memory span of native healthy adult Hindi speaker. Digit forward span. It also suggests that after 70 years. Firstly. There are only a few studies that compare the influence of language on the DS tasks (Ellis & Hennelly. it was a notion that central executive component of working memory has an important role in the performance of BS tasks. 1986). working memory ability declines with a similar rate up to 6070 years. Conclusion: The results of this study present some important facts. Alternatively.

Just and Carpenter. Shah & Miyake. (1992) reported that WM is a cornerstone of higher-order complex cognitive function. Hambrick. Baddeley.Effortful processing needs coordination of storage and processing – coordination. This coordination is one of the primary functions of executive WM. 1986). Tuholski. The neuro-anatomical changes associated with aging are mostly seen in prefrontal cortex of frontal lobe. Just & Carpenter. Jarrold. Therefore. 1996). 1992. psychological. CS task is considered to measure verbal and executive WM. 2000). Adults above 60 years often reported difficulty to remember recent experiences. Aging also leads to several neuro-anatomical. & Gunn. & Engle.INTRODUCTION Working memory (WM) is a work-space that allows a cognitive system for shortterm storage of new or previously learned information and their manipulation to perform a cognitive task (Baddeley. & Kramer. The change or decline of this region with normal aging significantly affects the executive functions (West. 2003). Reed. It requires effortful processing of information while trying to retain lists of items for a short interval (Bayliss. 1988). 2003). Amongst span tasks. Baddely. 2005). Bunting. Payne. involved the measurement of span. Kane. Hambrick. Nearly all measures of working memory developed till date. 1996. & Wilhelm.g. 2004. Executive functions are one of the important components of WM. The memory span is the maximum number of sequential information an individual can remember accurately (Gathercole. Span activities used to quantify the memory span can be classified as either simple span (SS) or complex span (CS) task. Clinical 5 . 1999). much more data are available from these tasks compared to other tasks to measure WM capacity e. and cognitive changing in a person (Mungas. 1986. spatial WM span tasks (Kane. needed for goal-directed behaviors. whereas. presumed to measure phonological short-term memory.. Engle. A SS task requires only the passive retention of information. WM also plays a major role in language processing (Baddeley. Wilhelm. 2005). physiological. Developmental research suggests that aging associated decline in WM is a core factor to general cognitive-aging effects (Hasher & Zacks. counting span and reading span tasks are maximally prefer because these are reliable measure measures of WM (Conway.

and gender differences. It was concluded that reading and writing ability influences an individual development. Alvarez. physical activity and leisure activities had also a significant effect on aging. Most of the studies looked for the span at different age groups. education. and Ardila.researches most commonly use digit span tasks amongst all span tasks to measure WM capacity (Conway et al. Clark Dennerstein. the study attempts in presenting a deeper insight in the pattern of decline in the working memory of a person as the age progresses. DFS and DBS is strongly influenced from aging. Bowden. academic history. Henderson (2004) studied the effect of age.. eventually. in the age range of 40-to-above 80 years. Guthrie. (1998). Therefore. Elkadi. 2005). To understand the influence of demographic and individual variable on working memory. Although.to-above 80 years. other variables like level of education. education. Limited studies had focused on the pattern of decline of both these measures along with increased age. analyzed the variables influencing memory. the present study attempts to investigate the effect of aging on DFS and DBS tasks of working memory on native Hindi healthy speakers. digits backward span (DBS) tasks. working history. it also helps in differential diagnosis between aging associated memory impairment and memory impairment caused due to any pathological reason. which can be measured as digit span task. language of a person. Mejia Pineda. This test comprised of digits forward span (DFS) and. and culture differences on DFS and DBS tasks in Australian-born women within the age range of 56-67 years on 2574 Spanish‐speaking subjects. The prime objective of the study was to look for the pattern of decline of digit forward and digit backward span tasks performance across the 40. 6 . health conditions. From the review of previous studies it is clear that aging has a significant effect on decline of digit forward span (DFS) and digit backward span (DBS). They found that other than age. Both education level and cultural differences had a significant effect on DFS and DBS in Spanish adults. Therefore. gender. and culture may also influence to some extent.

In addition.5). Mean schooling years for the sample was 11. and Group V: aged above 80 years (M = 84.. et al.above 80s years were recruited for the study.7). SD = 2.3). and severe untreated sight and hearing disorders were excluded from the study. Chandra. Sharma. India. The sample was classified into five groups according to age of participants. Pandav. Scale for measuring the socioeconomic status of a family: The scale developed by Aggarwal.08 ( SD= 3. Baker.5). None of the participants scored less than the cut-off point in the HMSE. Individuals with any Axis I psychiatric diagnosis according to the DSMIV-TR (American Psychological Association. Group I: aged 40-50 years (M = 45.12. The scale consists of 22 question based on which the 7 . 1995). presence of dementia. All had education level higher than 9 years in Hindi medium.METHOD Participants The study was conducted in semi urban area of Patna district in Bihar. Mean sample score was 28. Group III: aged 61-70 years (M = 65. Ratclife. Ryan. All the subjects were formally screened for speech and hearing abilities by the experimenter and those who passed the screening were included in the study. Group IV: aged 71-80 years (M = 75. All the participants belonged to middle socioeconomic status as assessed on scale for measuring the socioeconomic status of family (Aggarwal. Gilbey. 2002).81. It was ensured using Hindi Mental State Exam (Ganguli. Bellie.62. 2005).25. SD = 3.5 (SD= 1. Instruments I. Aggarwal & Rajoura. Participants scoring greater than or equal to 25 on the Hindi Mental State Exam (HMSE) were taken up for the study. SD = 1. SD = 2.87.6). SD = 4. Group II: aged 51-60 years (M = 55. psychological problems. Sharma.7). There were eight males and eight females in each of the age groups. Seaberg & Dekosky. a person (elderly person other than subject) who became familiar with the tasks as experimenter was administering the test on subjects. Chhabra. was also excluded from the study.3). (2005). Bhasin. The participant had no present/past history of any neurological. A total of eighty native Hindi speaking adults within the age range of 40-to.

high. upper.scoring was done and total score obtained classify the subjects into upper high.. 8 . However in DBS task the participants were asked to verbally repeat the numbers in reverse order. Janavs. poor and very poor/ below poverty line status. 8 9 6) up to seven digits (e. 7 5 3 6 1 9 4). The cut-off point set for this sample was ≥ 25 points. III. and Weiller (1998). 10threvision (ICD10) psychiatric disorders. HMSE consists of 22 test items covering several areas of cognitive functions such as orientation (time and place). Amorim. This document aimed at informing the participants about the objectives. IV.g.. The time to complete the instrument was approximately 10 minutes in all. language function (comprehension and expression). There were three trials per set. II. motor functioning and praxis.. memory. Span was calculated as a set at which two out of three trials were repeated correctly. attention and concentration. middle. In DFS task participants were asked to verbally repeat a set in same sequence as the examiner. It consists of a brief structured interview. (1995). Procedures Participation in this study was voluntary. Hindi Mental State Examination (HMSE): HMSE is a Hindi version of the Mini mental state examination (MMSE). Sheehan. At first participants signed an informed consent form. Lecrubier. screens individuals with cognitive impairment. recognition of objects. starting from three digits (e. Working memory: Digit Span Test: The digit span test consisted of sets of digits. The digit sequences used in the tasks and the criterion for deciding span were same as DF tasks. These sets of digits were taken from the digit forward and digit backward subtest of “Cognitive-Linguistic Assessment Protocol for Adults” (CLAP) in Kannada (Kamath.g. Mini International Neuropsychiatry Interview (MINI):The MINI is a semi-structured interview developed by Sheehan. following diagnostic criteria similar to those found in the DSM-IV and in the ICD-10. Digits were presented at the rate of one digit per second. lower middle. 2001). Test was started from a set of 3 digits continuing to a maximum a set of 7 digits. to assess 17 of the most commonly occurring Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and International Classification of Diseases. developed by Ganguli et al.

and procedures of this investigation.8 (.37 (.62 (.35) 3. p = ˂ 0. noise free environment at home or clinical setting.00 was used for the statistical analysis.37 (. based on the MINI and HMSE scores and on structured interviews. participants underwent digit span tasks so that their working memory may be evaluated. The participants were tested in a quiet.83) 3.35) 3.0) DFS Female 5.25 (.5 (.5 (. All the data was audio-video recorded with digital camera (Sony 1080).64) 4.0 (0) 3.74) 3.0 (.74) 3.75) 4.35) 3. Table 1 shows the mean and standard deviation (SD) for span (DFS and DBS) across age groups. It 9 . Finally the 10 percent of the audio-video recorded data were retested by three speechlanguage pathologists for inter-judge reliability. and HMSE. Paired samples t-test (α = 0. At last.37 (.87 (.001.37 (. RESULTS A commercially available statistical package for the Social Science (SPSS) version 16. MINI.51) 3.03. After that.0 (.87 (.5 (. The results are shown in Table 2. Table 1 Mean (M) and standard deviation (SD) of DFS and DBS for the five age groups.87) Male 4.75) 4.83) 5. The interviews were conducted under a neuropsychologist’s guidance.12 (.46) 4. they had to complete socio-cultural questionnaire.51) 3. Age Group Male 40-50 years 51-60 years 61-70 years 71-80 years Above 80s Total 6.75 (.87 (.70) 3. At this moment.71) Note: Standard deviations appear in parentheses. psychiatric and neuropsychiatric symptoms were evaluated by a psychologist trained in diagnostic evaluation in older individuals. DFS was higher than DBS (Figure 1).87 (.12 (.75 (.37 (1.53) 6.64) 4.51) 3. Multivariate Analysis of Variances (MANOVA) was performed to compare the DFS and DBS tasks across age groups and gender.79) DBS Female 4.46) 5.87 (.53) 5.82 (.justifications.05) explored a significant difference between these tasks with t = 17.

However.01 1. The comparisons of the DFS and DBS across age groups are shown in Figure 2. p = ˂ 0.51 5. and 4-5 age groups.05= significant difference) Figure 2.001* Gender F 14. The result 10 . 2-3. p = ˂ 0. Table 2 F value and p-value of age and gender for DFS and DBS.13 P 0.34 Note: (*p ˂ 0.31.02* 0. In DFS. Tasks Age groups F DFS DBS 20.35 6.14 P ˂ 0. 3-5. and 4-5 all other age groups showed significant differences. 3-4. 3-4. 77) = 20.001* 0.01* Age* gender F 3. Comparison of DFS and DBS across 40-to-above 80s years. and for DB span [F (1.revealed significant effects of age group for the DF span F (1.51. 77) = 5. at DBS significant differences were observed except 25.001]. 3-5. This was measured using DFS and DBS tasks.31 p ˂ 0. DISCUSSION The study investigated the effect of aging on pattern of decline of digit forward and digit backward span tasks of working memory in native Hindi speakers within the age range of 40–above 80s.001]. except 1-2.001* ˂ 0.

. 1991). it is important to determine whether change in WM abilities is dependent on deficit of hearing acuity or not.1. Wilde et al. 2005). SD = 0. Wilde et al. The mean span of male was significantly higher than female for both the measure. which affect the cognitive abilities. the digits were presented at louder voice they asked the experimenter to repeat the digits. none of the studies has compared the effect of gender on DFS and DBS in adult age groups. study by Gathercoel et al. It may be noted that.g.. 2007. The difference between the DFS and DBS was also found within the normal range of 0. Fein. Kinsella. Thus.. ..6. et al. participants above 65 years had reported some amount of hearing deficits. Our results indicated that. 2003.9) was within normal range of 5-8 digits (Kaplan. Results of present study showed a significant age and gender difference effects on DFS and DBS of WM. SD = 0. (2004) has studied the effect of gender difference on working memory ability in young children within the age range of 4-15 years. 1986. 2002. Participants reported that. 2004). Morris. This decline in sensory acuity might affect their cognitive tasks performance (Baldwin. they found difficulty in memorizing and recalling digits. across all the age groups. & Ong. It is important to mention that all the participants below age of 65 years had clinically normal hearing acuity.7) approximate towards the lowest value of normal range within 4-5 digits (Lezak et al. even they could listen the digits quite well.. to repeat them. Similar observations were observed during the study. 2002.. & Delis 1991). In the present study. Baldwin & Struckman-Johnson. 2004. Although previous researches have revealed profound effect of aging on WM abilities. However.. Lunner. 2004. ceiling effect was seen early for DBS than DFS tasks. Wingfield et al. However the mean DBS (M = 3.59 to 2 (Kaplan et al. 2009. It is a common notion that reduced hearing acuity is pervasive with normal aging. that even. Moreover. DF and DB span decreased by a rate of one digit per age group upto 6170 years and 51-60 years respectively. and after that span remained constant. This finding was also similar to some of the previous studies (e.. 11 . Black. Similar aging associated decline in both DF and DB span have been reported in previous studies (Hester et al. Hester. mean DFS (M = 5. 2004). 2004). Myerson et al.of present study showed that span for DF task was higher than DB.. This effect forces us to think about factors other than aging.

CONCLUSION The results of this study present some important facts. both males and females performed equally. leading to greater rate of decline in DFS than DBS tasks. formal assessment for hearing ability. in DB span task. but pattern of decline was found to be similar for both the measures (Figure 2).. and detailed cognitive assessment are needed to address their influences on working memory in normal aging. how the interaction of reduced hearing acuity and normal aging affect the working memory. it was a notion that central executive has a significant importance in BS tasks performance. However. Alternatively. 1980. Strigler & Lee. Apart from this. the study indicates that normal aging affect the working memory abilities for DBS earlier in the life span than DFS. although the rate of decline was not uniform with age.Therefore. working memory ability declines with a similar rate up to 60-70 years. Lower performance of adults above 65 years of age on working memory tasks might be due to reduced sensory acuity. However. The findings of the present study 12 . The similarity of results between the two studies is because of the fact that an identical protocol was used in both the studies. In this study formal screening of the person for the hearing ability was not done as it was not the focus of the study. gender has a significant effect on working memory indicating that males has a higher DF span than females. In the present study. Firstly. Secondly. (2004) where they assumed that both DFS and DBS tasks uses central executive. Thirdly. 1986). precise relationships between age associated reduced hearing acuity and normal aging is not well understood. except the number of participants. However. saturation in span takes place. This type of pattern was reported in one of the studies by Hester et al. Present study included the lesser participant (N =80) than the earlier study (N =1030). There are only a few studies that compare the influence of language on the DS tasks (Ellis & Hennelly. It also suggests that after 70 years. the results of present study provides a data base of digit forward and digit backward span of adult speaker. is not well explained in the literature. Also. it is concluded that reduced and static span after age of 70 years may be due to sub clinical reduced hearing acuity that interact with normal aging differently.

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