Dissociation of Executive and Attentional Elements of the Digit Span Task in a Population of Older Adults: A Latent Class Analysis

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The prevailing model for working memory proposes the existence of a “central executive” responsible for coordinating and prioritizing incoming information from sensory and association cortices. The Digit Span task is commonly used by clinicians to parse attentional and executive components of working memory; however, the interrelatedness of these constructs in the context of advanced age and neurodegenerative disease remains an area of active investigation. The current study details a procedure and rationale for the use of latent class analysis, a data-driven, person-centered method, in the investigation of older adults and dementia. Class analysis of digit span performance in older adults (n = 874) drawn from a specialty clinic revealed four classes with distinct performance across task subcomponents. In three of the classes, attentional and executive elements demonstrated similar performance. The fourth class and implications of class structure are discussed in the context of aging. © 2017, The Author(s) 2017.



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