The relationship between age, processing speed, working memory capacity, and language comprehension

Memory. 2005 Apr-May;13(3-4):403-13. doi: 10.1080/09658210344000459.


A total of 50 elderly individuals and 48 college students were tested on several measures of processing speed and of working memory capacity. Language processing was tested with an on-line measure of sentence processing efficiency, an end-of-sentence acceptability judgement task, and a paragraph comprehension test. Elderly individuals performed more poorly than college students on the speed of processing and working memory measures and had longer listening times overall on the sentence processing measures. Elderly individuals did not, however, have overall longer listening times at the most capacity-demanding regions of the harder sentence types. Correlational analyses failed to establish a relationship between the increase in syntactic processing load at the capacity-demanding region of the harder sentence type and the measures of working memory capacity, but did establish a relationship between paragraph comprehension and working memory capacity. The data are argued to provide evidence that the WM system used to structure sentences syntactically is separate from that used in other aspects of language comprehension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Language*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Microcomputers
  • Models, Psychological
  • Psychological Tests
  • Reaction Time