A latent variable approach to executive control in healthy ageing

Brain Cogn. 2012 Apr;78(3):284-99. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2012.01.005. Epub 2012 Jan 30.


It is a well-established finding that the central executive is fractionated in at least three separable component processes: Updating, Shifting, and Inhibition of information (Miyake et al., 2000). However, the fractionation of the central executive among the elderly has been less well explored, and Miyake's et al. latent structure has not yet been integrated with other models that propose additional components, such as access to long-term information. Here we administered a battery of classic and newer neuropsychological tests of executive functions to 122 healthy individuals aged between 48 and 91 years. The test scores were subjected to a latent variable analysis (LISREL), and yielded four factors. The factor structure obtained was broadly consistent with Miyake et al.'s three-factor model. However, an additional factor, which was labeled 'efficiency of access to long-term memory', and a mediator factor ('speed of processing') were apparent in our structural equation analysis. Furthermore, the best model that described executive functioning in our sample of healthy elderly adults included a two-factor solution, thus indicating a possible mechanism of dedifferentiation, which involves larger correlations and interdependence of latent variables as a consequence of cognitive ageing. These results are discussed in the light of current models of prefrontal cortex functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests