TitleInvestigating the effects of age and prior military service on fluid and crystallized cognitive functions using virtual morris water maze (vMWM) and NIH Toolbox tasks.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsMollusky A, Reynolds-Lallement N, Lee D, Zhong JY, Magnusson KR
JournalArch Gerontol Geriatr
Date Published2024 Jan
KeywordsAging, Cognition, Female, Humans, Male, Maze Learning, Morris Water Maze Test

Much of current knowledge of aging involves war veterans and research about age-related cognitive changes in veterans involves generalized or single function tests or health or neurological disorders. The current study examined military service within the context of comparisons of young and old humans involving generally healthy individuals to address normal age-associated cognitive changes. Adult participants included 11 young females (8 non-veterans; 3 veterans; 21-31 years), 5 young males (non-veterans, 21-24 years), 9 older females (non-veterans, 62-80 years), and 21 older males (11 non-veterans; 10 veterans; 60-86 years). They were tested in virtual Morris water maze (vMWM) tasks, which were designed to test spatial learning, cognitive flexibility and working memory, similar to rodent studies, and were validated by correlations with specific NIH Toolbox (NIH-TB) Cognitive Battery or Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS) Logical Memory I and II tests. Significant age-related deficits were seen on multiple vMWM tasks and NIH-TB fluid cognition tasks. Among older males, vMWM tasks appeared to be more sensitive, based on finding statistical differences, to prior military service than NIH Toolbox tasks. Compared with male non-veterans of comparable age and younger, older male veterans exhibited significant deficits in spatial learning, cognitive flexibility, and working memory on vMWM tasks. Our findings support continued development and characterization of vMWM tasks that are comparable between rodents and humans for translating aging interventions between species, and provide impetus for larger investigations examining the extent to which prior military service can serve as a "hidden" variable in normal biological declines of cognitive functions.

Alternate JournalArch Gerontol Geriatr
PubMed ID37604015