Life-long engagement in cognitively demanding activities may mitigate against declines in cognitive ability observed in healthy or pathological aging. However, the “mental costs” associated with completing cognitive tasks also increase with age and may be partly attributed to increases in preclinical levels of Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology, specifically amyloid. We test whether cognitive effort costs increase in a domaingeneral manner among older adults, and further, whether such age-related increases in cognitive effort costs are associated with working memory (WM) capacity or amyloid burden, a signature pathology of AD. In two experiments, we administered a behavioral measure of cognitive effort costs (cognitive effort discounting) to a sample of older adults recruited from online sources (Experiment 1) or from ongoing longitudinal studies of aging and dementia (Experiment 2). Experiment 1 compared age-related differences in cognitive effort costs across two domains,WMand speech comprehension. Experiment 2 compared cognitive effort costs between a group of participants who were rated positive for amyloid relative to those with no evidence of amyloid. Results showed age-related increases in cognitive effort costs were evident in both domains. Cost estimates were highly correlated between the WM and speech comprehension tasks but did not correlate with WM capacity. In addition, older adults who were amyloid positive had higher cognitive effort costs than those who were amyloid negative. Cognitive effort costs may index a domain-general trait that consistently increases in aging. Differences in cognitive effort costs associatedwith amyloid burden suggest a potential neurobiological mechanism for age-related differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-442
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 17 2023


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • aging
  • amyloid
  • cognitive effort


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