J. Intell., Vol. 6, Pages 10: Individual Differences in Developmental Change: Quantifying the Amplitude and Heterogeneity in Cognitive Change across Old Age

Research paper by Nathalie Mella, Delphine Fagot, Olivier Renaud, Matthias Kliegel, Anik de Ribaupierre

Indexed on: 13 Jul '18Published on: 28 Feb '18Published in: Journal of Intelligence


It is well known that cognitive decline in older adults is of smaller amplitude in longitudinal than in cross-sectional studies. Yet, the measure of interest rests generally with aggregated group data. A focus on individual developmental trajectories is rare, mainly because it is difficult to assess intraindividual change reliably. Individual differences in developmental trajectories may differ quantitatively (e.g., larger or smaller decline) or qualitatively (e.g., decline vs improvement), as well as in the degree of heterogeneity of change across different cognitive domains or different tasks. The present paper aims at exploring, within the Geneva Variability Study, individual change across several cognitive domains in 92 older adults (aged 59–89 years at baseline) over a maximum of seven years and a half. Two novel, complementary methods were used to explore change in cognitive performance while remaining entirely at the intra-individual level. A bootstrap based confidence interval was estimated, for each participant and for each experimental condition, making it possible to define three patterns: stability, increase or decrease in performance. Within-person ANOVAs were also conducted for each individual on all the tasks. Those two methods allowed quantifying the direction, the amplitude and the heterogeneity of change for each individual. Results show that trajectories differed widely among individuals and that decline is far from being the rule.