In older adults, fluctuating sense of control linked to cognitive ability

February 13, 2012

Everyone has moments when they feel more in control of their lives than at other times. New research from North Carolina State University shows that this sense of control fluctuates more often, and more quickly, than previously thought - and that this sense of control may actively affect cognitive abilities.

"This is the first time we've been able to see how the day-to-day changes in our sense of being in control may actually influence the way we think," says Dr. Shevaun Neupert, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and lead author of a paper on the research.

In a study focusing on older adults, Neupert and her co-author, NC State associate professor of psychology Jason Allaire, tested each participant's sense of control every 12 hours for 60 days. In the study, participants were asked questions about whether they felt in control of their lives and whether they felt able to achieve goals they set for themselves. Cognitive functioning, such as memory and inductive reasoning, was also measured. Participants ranged in age from 61 to 87, with an average age of 74.

The study found that participants' sense of control could fluctuate significantly in the course of a single day. That is particularly interesting, given that previous research has largely focused on the presumption that one's sense of control remains relatively stable.

Researchers also found that participants who normally reported having a low sense of control performed much better on inductive reasoning tests during periods when they reported feeling a higher sense of control. Inductive reasoning is a type of problem solving. For example, being shown a series of letters and being able to determine which letter should come next in the sequence.

Further, the researchers found that people who normally reported feeling a high sense of control scored higher on memory tests when feeling more in control than usual.

Based on modeling, researchers say it appears that the improved cognitive functioning stems from the feeling of improved control, not vice versa. "This wasn't part of the experimental design, so we can't say for sure," Neupert says. "But it is a first step toward determining which comes first - sense of control or improved cognition."
-end-
The paper, ""I Think I Can, I Think I Can: Examining the Within-Person Coupling of Control Beliefs and Cognition in Older Adults," is published online by the journal Psychology and Aging.

North Carolina State University

Related Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Memory of the Venus flytrap
In a study to be published in Nature Plants, a graduate student Mr.

Memory protein
When UC Santa Barbara materials scientist Omar Saleh and graduate student Ian Morgan sought to understand the mechanical behaviors of disordered proteins in the lab, they expected that after being stretched, one particular model protein would snap back instantaneously, like a rubber band.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

Memory boost with just one look
HRL Laboratories, LLC, researchers have published results showing that targeted transcranial electrical stimulation during slow-wave sleep can improve metamemories of specific episodes by 20% after only one viewing of the episode, compared to controls.

VR is not suited to visual memory?!
Toyohashi university of technology researcher and a research team at Tokyo Denki University have found that virtual reality (VR) may interfere with visual memory.

The genetic signature of memory
Despite their importance in memory, the human cortex and subcortex display a distinct collection of 'gene signatures.' The work recently published in eNeuro increases our understanding of how the brain creates memories and identifies potential genes for further investigation.

How long does memory last? For shape memory alloys, the longer the better
Scientists captured live action details of the phase transitions of shape memory alloys, giving them a better idea how to improve their properties for applications.

A NEAT discovery about memory
UAB researchers say over expression of NEAT1, an noncoding RNA, appears to diminish the ability of older brains to form memories.

Molecular memory can be used to increase the memory capacity of hard disks
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have taken part in an international British-Finnish-Chinese collaboration where the first molecule capable of remembering the direction of a magnetic above liquid nitrogen temperatures has been prepared and characterized.

Memory transferred between snails
Memories can be transferred between organisms by extracting ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a trained animal and injecting it into an untrained animal, as demonstrated in a study of sea snails published in eNeuro.

Read More: Memory News and Memory Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.