Practice effects on neuropsychological tests, which are improvements in test scores due to repeated exposure to testing materials, are robust in healthy elders, but muted in older adults with cognitive disorders. Conversely, few studies have investigated practice effects on motor tasks involving procedural memory, particularly across test-retest periods exceeding 24 hours. The current study examined one-week practice effects on a novel upper extremity motor task in 54 older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment. Results indicate that these individuals with primary memory deficits did improve on this motor task within a brief training session as well as across one week. These practice effects were unrelated to demographic characteristics or global cognition. One-week practice effects were, however, negatively related to delayed memory function, with larger practice effects being associated with poorer delayed memory and potentially better visuospatial ability. The presence of longer term practice effects on a procedural motor task not only has implications for how longitudinal assessments with similar measures involving implicit memory might be interpreted, but may also inform future rehabilitative strategies for patients with more severe declarative memory deficits.
Keywords: Aging; Mild cognitive impairment; Motor learning; Practice effects; Procedural memory..