Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a decline in episodic memory and executive functioning, hampering learning ability. Insight into outcome-based learning capacity may be relevant for optimizing the learning potential of these patients. To date, mixed results have been found in studies in which cognitively impaired participants have to learn based on positive and negative outcomes. In this study, we investigated the role of negative and positive feedback on memory performance and participants’ ability to adjust their behaviour accordingly in a sample of 23 early-stage AD patients and 23 matched healthy controls. We administered a novel computerized object-location memory task, in which participants were instructed to learn and memorize the locations of different everyday objects following errorless learning (EL) and trial-and-error learning (TEL). A separate probabilistic TEL task was employed in which participants had to learn how to adjust their behaviour based on positive and negative feedback. EL had a beneficial general effect on memory performance for object locations. However, this effect was not larger in early-stage AD patients compared to controls and error frequency during acquisition of object locations was unrelated to later recall performance. No group differences were found on the probabilistic learning task with respect to learning performance over time and based on positive and negative feedback. Although the error monitoring system seems intact in patients with early-stage AD, errors during learning are likely acting as a source of interference causing difficulty in storage or retrieval of object locations.

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This post is Copyright: Inge Scheper,
Inti A. Brazil,
Jurgen A. H. R. Claassen,
Dirk Bertens,
Sofie Geurts,
Roy P. C. Kessels | March 8, 2024
Wiley: Journal of Neuropsychology: Table of Contents