The Role of a Working Memory Training Program in Reducing Repetitive Negative Thinking in Older Adults.
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Objective: Recent research has supported the construction of a model of depression and anxiety in older adults (>60years), in which the decline in working memory with age is implicated in increasing propensity to engage in repetitive negative thinking, thereby predisposing older adults to anxiety and depression. The study detailed here intended to extend these research findings by exploring the efficacy and acceptability of a working memory intervention in older adults. Methods: The study employed a randomised multiple-baseline single case research design, in which six older adults participated in baseline assessment of mood, repetitive negative thinking and working memory. Participants then tracked their repetitive negative thinking daily throughout a baseline phase, the length of which was defined by the randomisation procedure. Following phase change, participants continued to rate their repetitive thinking daily, as well as engaging in a daily working memory training intervention. On completion of the intervention phase, outcome measures of mood, repetitive negative thinking and working memory were repeated. Full visual and statistical analysis of all data was undertaken to support exploration of the findings. Results: Results of the study indicated that that the working memory training program was unlikely to have elicited a significant impact upon participants’ working memory. However, two participants demonstrated reliable improvement in both repetitive thinking and mood. Analysis of relevant variables to predict the selective impact of the intervention was not fruitful, but may indicate that improvements in working memory underscore the improvements in thinking and mood, lending support to the proposed model. There appeared to be a small, non-significant decrease in daily repetitive negative thinking across five of the six participants. Conclusion: Further research is needed to identify factors that may predict response to working memory training within older adult populations. The research supports the on-going investigation of innovative working memory interventions within an older adult population, although results are not sufficiently robust to indicate wider adoption of these models within health services or as routine treatments for this population.