All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Lesley Ross

Advisory Committee Members

Karlene Ball

Olivio Clay

Kristine Lokken

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2017

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Background: There is a growing body of literature supporting the beneficial effects of cognitive training and exercise training on executive function (EF) in older adults. More recently, evidence is amassing that interventions which combine cognitive and physical activity, for example, exergames, may confer even greater cognitive benefits. Comparison of EF interventions for older adults requires more investigation and would benefit from improved operationalization of the EF construct and better understanding of factors which predict baseline EF in older adults. Methods and Results: Fifty-seven sedentary, non-gamer, community dwelling older adults were randomly assigned to one of three intervention groups (computerized cognitive training, DVD-based exercise program, or combined Xbox Kinect training) or to a no-contact control group. Participant dyads completed supervised training. Forty-nine participants completed baseline and immediate post-training assessments consisting of a large battery of EF measures, psychological and physical health questionnaires, and a treadmill stress test. Forty participants repeated assessments again at a follow-up appointment 6 months after baseline. Results showed that 1) EF measures loaded onto one factor, 2) Caucasian race, greater VO2max, and lower extraversion were predictive of better EF at baseline, and 3) Cognitive, exercise, and combined groups did not show significant changes in EF after training: The control group showed declines from pre- to post-test, cognitive and exercise groups approximately maintained EF, and the combined group trended toward improvements in EF. Conclusions: Results lend support to a one-factor conceptualization of EF. Demographic, psychological, and physical health predictors can be used to help identify older adults at risk for executive function decline. Results also support the possibility that older adults could maintain EF through participation in cognitive and exercise training and that combined training activities like those available for Xbox Kinect, may confer improvements in EF. Results need to be replicated in a larger and better powered study before strong conclusions can be drawn.

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