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Journal Article

Age-effects on associative object-location memory


Petersson,  Karl Magnus
Neurobiology of Language Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;

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Meulenbroek, O., Kessels, R. P. C., De Rover, M., Petersson, K. M., Olde Rikkert, M. G. M., Rijpkema, M., et al. (2010). Age-effects on associative object-location memory. Brain Research, 1315, 100-110. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.12.011.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-61BD-0
Aging is accompanied by an impairment of associative memory. The medial temporal lobe and fronto-striatal network, both involved in associative memory, are known to decline functionally and structurally with age, leading to the so-called associative binding deficit and the resource deficit. Because the MTL and fronto-striatal network interact, they might also be able to support each other. We therefore employed an episodic memory task probing memory for sequences of object–location associations, where the demand on self-initiated processing was manipulated during encoding: either all the objects were visible simultaneously (rich environmental support) or every object became visible transiently (poor environmental support). Following the concept of resource deficit, we hypothesised that the elderly probably have difficulty using their declarative memory system when demands on self-initiated processing are high (poor environmental support). Our behavioural study showed that only the young use the rich environmental support in a systematic way, by placing the objects next to each other. With the task adapted for fMRI, we found that elderly showed stronger activity than young subjects during retrieval of environmentally richly encoded information in the basal ganglia, thalamus, left middle temporal/fusiform gyrus and right medial temporal lobe (MTL). These results indicate that rich environmental support leads to recruitment of the declarative memory system in addition to the fronto-striatal network in elderly, while the young use more posterior brain regions likely related to imagery. We propose that elderly try to solve the task by additional recruitment of stimulus-response associations, which might partly compensate their limited attentional resources.