Doctoral thesis
Open access

Multimodal interventions to enhance cognitive functions of vulnerable populations

ContributorsTinello, Doriana
Number of pages241
Imprimatur date2023
Defense date2023

This thesis addresses the urgent concern of preserving cognitive health in an era marked by increasing global life expectancies. Cognitive efficiency, crucial for daily functioning and healthy aging, is especially important as individuals experience longer lives and dynamic changes in the work environment, necessitating ongoing learning. Optimal cognitive function is key to adapting successfully to extended productive lives. Cognitive functioning is influenced by various factors such as genetics, education, socioeconomics, physical activity, mental health. It is imperative to recognize that cognitive changes can have positive effects, including experiential learning. As a result, promoting cognitive health throughout life is essential, with a focus on engaging older individuals in activities to sustain cognitive efficiency.

The thesis explores two research approaches: behavioral cognitive training and neuroscientific interventions targeting physiological changes. While cognitive training has been extensively studied, debates persist on its transferability to real-life situations. Neuroscientific approaches, such as biofeedback and neurofeedback, show promise, but their impact on cognitive functioning over extended periods, especially in healthy older individuals, remains experimental. Recent interest has shifted towards multimodal interventions combining physical activity, mindfulness, and cognitive training. However, research on their impact on the cognitive functions of healthy older adults and jobseekers is limited. The thesis aims to fill this gap by employing cognitive and physiological training to investigate multimodal interventions' effects on cognitive functions in two vulnerable populations. Three research questions were formulated: 1) Efficacy of heart rate variability biofeedback on executive functions across the lifespan. 2) The combined impact of heart rate variability biofeedback and neurofeedback on inhibitory control in healthy older adults. 3) The effectiveness of a multimodal job search intervention, including cognitive training, on enhancing cognitive functions of jobseekers.

The systematic review for question 1 suggests potential benefits of heart rate variability biofeedback on attention, inhibition, and working memory, especially in specific vulnerable populations. To answer question 2, a pilot study indicates that multimodal biofeedback training may enhance inhibitory control, autonomic regulation, and blood oxygenation in certain contexts. For question 3, a field randomized controlled trial demonstrates that jobseekers in the cognitive training condition reported improvements in self-monitoring skills. However, the study suggests potential challenges, such as mental fatigue and increased stress, when combining cognitive training with online job search interventions. In conclusion, the thesis explores multimodal interventions to improve cognitive functions in vulnerable populations. Biofeedback training shows promise for healthy older adults, while the effectiveness of cognitive training within job search interventions remains inconclusive. The thesis emphasizes the need for further research considering the complex interplay among physiological, psychological, and cognitive factors in real-life contexts, with larger sample sizes to draw meaningful conclusions.

  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Cognitive training
  • Biofeedback
  • Neurofeedback
  • Older adults
  • Jobseekers
Citation (ISO format)
TINELLO, Doriana. Multimodal interventions to enhance cognitive functions of vulnerable populations. 2023. doi: 10.13097/archive-ouverte/unige:172938
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