Effect of age on forward and backward span tasks

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2004 Jul;10(4):475-81. doi: 10.1017/S1355617704104037.


The central executive component of working memory has been argued to play an important role in the performance of span tasks, particularly backward span. Age-related decline in central executive function has also been reported, and yet there have been inconsistent findings to indicate that with increasing age, the discrepancy between forward and backward span increases. A secondary analysis of the Wechsler Memory Scale-Third Edition standardization sample (N = 1030) was performed to investigate this relationship. It was hypothesized on the basis of past research indicating an age-related decline in central executive performance, that backward digit and spatial span performance would decrease at a greater rate than forward span performance. However, the results indicated that the rate of age-related performance decline was equivalent for both measures. It is proposed that both forward and backward span tasks recruit central executive resources for successful task performance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Wechsler Scales