Aprendizagem discriminativa em jovens e em idosos com e sem doença de Alzheimer
Sartori, Raquel Martins
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Population aging is an increasing reality in developing countries. As a result, in the past decades the dementia has become one of the major problems of public health, affecting at least 5% of the population over the age of 65 years. Alzheimer s disease (AD), which is one form of dementia, is related to memory impairment, loss of capacity to learn new skills and forgetfulness of those skills previously mastered. The purpose of this study was twofold: (1) to investigate whether or not people with AD can learn new conditional discriminations; (2) to verify the extent to which learning of and memory for the stimuli decrease in elderly people without AD. The matching-to-sample (MTS) has been used to assist different populations with special needs in the acquisition of discriminative skills that cannot be learned through conventional teaching methods. The participants in this study were six elderly individuals with AD (two in the initial phase and four in the moderate phase), eight elderly individuals without any form of dementia, and seven young adults aged between 18 and 38 years. The elderly with AD failed to learn conditional discriminations with arbitrary stimuli, but they did learn identity conditional discriminations and simple discriminations. The typically developing elderly participants learned the conditional discriminations and did form equivalence classes; however, they required more training than the younger participants. This study allowed the identification of the process by which every participant learned the relationships, as well as the analysis of the differences between ages and health conditions of the elderly. The systematic teaching of new discriminations could be a useful strategy to maintain the cognitive skills along the aging process.