Executive control and learning pattern on the CVLT

Brian Lebowitz, Pegah Touradji, Lynn Jonen, Heather Belanger, Glenn Curtiss, Rodney Vanderploeg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We evaluated a 23 year-old man after recovery from encephalitis. In contrast to the expected pattern of increasingly better acquisition across the 5 learning trials of the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT-2), he produced a "J-shaped" curve (Trials 1-5: 8,6,6,9,11). Because he also demonstrated excessive levels of proactive interference as well as poor divided attention, we hypothesized that his atypical learning pattern was due to a build-up of proactive interference secondary to executive dyscontrol. Using a large sample of 4462 healthy adult men, we identified four groups exhibiting various learning patterns. We found that a learning pattern similar to this patient (i.e., a drop after trial 1 followed by recovery) was rare (1.1% of the sample). Individuals with this learning pattern demonstrated increased perseverative responses, as well as greater difficulty maintaining cognitive set on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, decreased attentional control on the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test, and greater levels of proactive interference on the CVLT. Taken together, the results of the study suggest that an early drop, followed by a recovery in learning trial performance, is associated with executive dyscontrol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1208-1217
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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