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Factors that positively or negatively mediate the effects of age on working memory across the adult life span


Working memory abilities significantly decrease with advancing age; hence, the search for factors that may increase or mitigate this decline is critical. Several factors have been identified that influence working memory; however, their effects have been mainly assessed separately and rarely together with other factors in the same sample. We examined 120 variables to search for factors that jointly act as mediators of working memory decay across the adult life span. A sample of 1652 healthy adults was assessed in spatial and verbal working memory domains. Structural equation modeling analyses were conducted to search for potential mediators that intervened between age and working memory. Only 14 and 10 variables reliably mediated spatial and verbal working memory, respectively. Factors from several domains remained in the models, such as individual characteristics, physiological traits, consumption habits, and regular activities. These factors are sufficiently powerful to influence working memory decline when they jointly interact, as in everyday living.

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This work was supported by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) (grant number 238826) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, General Direction of Academic personal Affairs (DGAPA) (grant numbers IN304202, IN300206, IN300309, ID300312, IG300115, IG300618).

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Correspondence to Selene Cansino.

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All participants provided informed consent and received a monetary reward for his/her participation. The study was approved by the Bioethics Committee of the School of Medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. All experiments were performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

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Cansino, S., Torres-Trejo, F., Estrada-Manilla, C. et al. Factors that positively or negatively mediate the effects of age on working memory across the adult life span. GeroScience 40, 293–303 (2018).

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  • Spatial working memory
  • Verbal working memory
  • Mediators
  • Adult life span
  • Structural equation modeling