Dec 31, 2010

Age-related effects on the neural correlates of autobiographical memory retrieval

Neurobiology of Aging
Peggy L St JacquesRoberto Cabeza

Abstract

Older adults recall less episodically rich autobiographical memories (AM), however, the neural basis of this effect is not clear. Using functional MRI, we examined the effects of age during search and elaboration phases of AM retrieval. Our results suggest that the age-related attenuation in the episodic richness of AMs is associated with difficulty in the strategic retrieval processes underlying recovery of information during elaboration. First, age effects on AM activity were more pronounced during elaboration than search, with older adults showing less sustained recruitment of the hippocampus and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) for less episodically rich AMs. Second, there was an age-related reduction in the modulation of top-down coupling of the VLPFC on the hippocampus for episodically rich AMs. In sum, the present study shows that changes in the sustained response and coupling of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC) underlie age-related reductions in episodic richness of the personal past.

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