Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Effect of Aging and Movement Variability on Motor Adaptation
Aging is associated with a multitude of changes, including changes in the motor system. One such change that has been documented is increased levels of inherent movement variability (the inability to consistently replicate movements over time) with increasing age. Previous research has had controversial findings regarding the effect that movement variability has on motor learning and motor adaptation. Some research suggests that movement variability is beneficial to motor learning, while other research indicates that movement variability is the by-product of a noisy motor system and is a detriment to learning new skills. How do changes in movement variability associated with aging affect the ability to adapt to a mass perturbation? We tested younger and older individuals on a mass adaptation task (applying mass to the lateral side of the arm to perturb inertial forces of the limb during reaches). We analyzed baseline levels of movement variability, learning during the adaptation block and how baseline levels of movement variability explained differences in learning. We focused on measures of accuracy, speed and precision. We found that younger individuals displayed greater levels of movement variability throughout the experiment and that they also learned to adapt to the mass perturbation more successfully than their older counterparts. Multi-joint movements displayed greater degrees of learning in comparison to single-joint movements, likely due to the difference in difficulty when completing the two movements. Taken together, our results suggest that purposeful movement variability may be beneficial to motor adaptation. Author Keywords: aging, mass adaptation, motor adaptation, motor learning, movement variability
Problem-Solving and Cognitive Flexibility in Older Adolescents and Young Adults
Ill-structured problems have changing components that solvers need to adapt their solutions to. Well-structured problems have strict, well-defined procedures, and solvers must know which procedures to apply and when. Research has suggested that these two types of problems utilize different problem-solving skills. The current study focused on the relation between ill-structured interpersonal problem solving, novel well-structured problem-solving, and cognitive flexibility in young adults and older adolescents. It was predicted that because of the changing components of ill-structured problems, cognitive flexibility would more strongly predict these compared to well-structured problems. The current study sample consisted of 73 undergraduates with an average age of 20.43 years. The results showed that cognitive flexibility is equally associated with ill-structured problem-solving and well-structured problem-solving. This suggests that cognitive flexibility may support the perspective coordination involved in solving ill-structured problems and that cognitive flexibility may support switching between search strategies when solving a novel well-structured problem. Author Keywords: adolescent, adult, cognitive flexibility, ill-structured problem-solving, novel problems, well-structured problem-solving
Cognitive Inefficiencies in Adolescents with Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders (ED) are notoriously difficult to treat due, in part, to commonly observed inefficiencies in cognitive flexibility and central coherence, which are believed to maintain disordered cognitions and behaviours and negatively impact prognosis. Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) has recently been used effectively with adults with ED; however, evidence among adolescents is limited. The present study explored change in flexibility and central coherence in a group of 23 adolescent ED inpatients (M = 16 years, SD = 0.95). All participants received a comparable dose of ED treatment. Participants were split into two groups for comparison: the CRT group (n = 15) received CRT in addition to TAU; and a TAU group for control (TAU; n = 8). Improvements in flexibility and central coherence were superior in the CRT group, suggesting that CRT is a potentially useful treatment for adolescents with AN as part of an overall psychosocial rehabilitation program. Author Keywords: anorexia nervosa, central coherence, cognitive flexibility, cognitive remediation, eating disorders, set shifting

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