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How learning, memory and decision-making change with age in healthy adults


My research project aims to explore age-related changes in learning, memory, and decision making in healthy adults. The study emphasizes the presence of latent states, which are defined as a set of unobserved variables that must be inferred from observations and help to focus primarily only on relevant and important stimuli for learning and reinforcement. The goal of my project is thus to test a computational behavioral task oriented towards latent states in healthy adults and compare obtained data in younger and older adults. The study consists of two parts: a behavioral & cognitive session and a fMRI session. Additionally, we conducted cognitive measures, such as WASI (fluid & crystallized intelligence), RBANS (cognitive functioning), ADMC (decision-making capacity). Overall, 25 younger adults and 6 old adults took part in both study sessions. Collecting data from both younger and older adults will help us to analyze how learning and memory change with age. Since two different age-groups are present in our study, we hope to produce quantitative predictors on how different their learning and decision-making processes are and whether they undergo significant changes with increasing age. Additionally, we want to look if there is any relationship between a participant’s behavior on the task and his or her cognitive measures, and whether the participant’s performance on the task can be explained by variables like age and cognitive factors. It was interesting to find that young adults learn at a faster rate and improve their performance with more blocks unlike older adults whose performance in the task does not significantly improve with more practice. Furthermore, performances of both young and old adults were influenced by several factors, such as prediction error(how close a response of a participant was to the location of the bomb in each trial), state return accuracy (how well a participant learn the correct location of the color for each of the two states), and state return response (how close a participant’s response was to the last time he or she was in the same state). In the future, we hope to modify the behavioral task to contain fewer stimuli and to collect the data from bigger population, involving old adults with Alzheimer’s Disease, mild cognitive impairment and healthy-aging controls.

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Aya (Aigerim) Akhmetzhanova, "How learning, memory and decision-making change with age in healthy adults" (2021). Summer Research Symposium. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.



  • Summer Research Symposium

    Each year, Brown University showcases the research of its undergraduates at the Summer Research Symposium. More than half of the student-researchers are UTRA recipients, while others receive funding from a variety of Brown-administered and national programs and fellowships and go …