Ecological Assesment of Executive Function in Healthy Aging
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Objectives: Recent literature has highlighted the requirement for ecologically valid and broad measures of executive function. In the current study, a relatively new virtual reality measure of executive function designed by Jansari, Agnew, Akesson and Murphy (JAAM; 2004) that aims to assess multiple areas of executive functioning in an ecological setting will be compared to the Tower of London test (TOL; Davis and Keller, 2002). Originally designed by Shallice (1982), the TOL is a traditional computer-based measure of executive function that specifically assesses the executive construct of planning. Design: A between-groups design was used based on the age of participants. Participants were normal younger adults aged 18-37 and normal older adults aged 60-72 (total n = 40). The main dependent variables related to performance on the JAAM and TOL tasks. In order to investigate possible explanations for any differences between the JAAM and TOL tasks, measures of processing speed, working memory and IQ were taken. Processing speed measured by a variant of the digit substitution task from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R; Wechsler, 1981); working memory was measured by the Digit Span subset of the WAIS-R; and IQ was assessed using the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence-III (WAIS-III; Wechsler, 1997). Methods: Results were analysed initially using independent T-Tests and a correlation matrix. A MANOVA and multiple regression analysis were then used to analyse group differences. Results: Groups did not significantly differ on the traditional TOL task, but they did on overall JAAM score and on the JAAM constructs of multitasking and event-based prospective memory. Discussion: Group differences on the JAAM and TOL tasks are discussed in relation to differences in processing speed and in relation to previous literature. Strengths and limitations the JAAM task, and this study in general, are discussed.