Psychology, Department of


First Advisor

Anne R. Schutte

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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirement For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor Anne R. Schutte. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2018.

Copyright (c) 2018 Gregory J. DeGirolamo


Spatial cognition encompasses a wide variety of abilities and requires the interaction of several regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, striatum, and pre-frontal cortex (PFC). (Packard & McGaugh, 1996; Reuter-Lorenz et al., 2000). Given that these areas atrophy in later adulthood (Golomb et al., 1993; Raz et al., 2003; Aizenstein et al., 2006), it raises the question of how spatial cognition changes with age. It has been found that increased task complexity leads to an age-related decline in performance (Nagel et al., 2009). Other factors that lead to a decline in memory performance in older adults include whether the memory task involves allocentric or egocentric memory (Desrocher & Smith, 1998). This study developed a computational model of spatial working memory recall and recognition abilities for young adulthood to late adulthood using a type of neural network—dynamic field theory. This model was used to generate hypotheses of how spatial working memory recall and recognition abilities change from young adulthood to late adulthood. This model also influenced the development of hypotheses of how long-term memory performance changes with age, and how working memory abilities predict long-term memory abilities. Some of the hypotheses were supported, such as performance declined as task complexity increased, and, compared to younger adults, older adults had a greater level of error on the long-term memory task. Other models and hypotheses, such as the prediction that there would not be a significant difference in performance between the two age groups on a spatial working memory recall task, were not supported.

Advisor: Anne R. Schutte

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