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Functional Neuroanatomy of Sustained Memory Encoding Performance in Healthy Aging and in Alzheimer's Disease

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Weis, S., Leube, D., Erb, M., Heun, R., Grodd, W., & Kircher, T. (2011). Functional Neuroanatomy of Sustained Memory Encoding Performance in Healthy Aging and in Alzheimer's Disease. International Journal of Neuroscience, 121(7), 384-392. doi:10.3109/00207454.2011.565892.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-B517-9
Abstract
The aim of our study was to examine brain networks involved with sustaining memory encoding performance in healthy aging and in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Since different brain regions are affected by degradation in these two conditions, it might be conceivable that different compensation mechanisms occur to keep up memory performance in aging and in AD. Using an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) design and a correlation analysis, 8 patients suffering from AD and 29 elderly control subjects were scanned while they studied a list of words for a subsequent memory test. Individual performance was assessed on the basis of a subsequent recognition test, and brain regions were identified where functional activations during study correlated with memory performance. In both groups, successful memory encoding performance was significantly correlated with the activation of the right frontal cortex. Furthermore, in healthy controls, there was a significant correlation of memory performance and the activation of the left medial and lateral temporal lobe. In contrast, in AD patients, increasing memory performance goes along with increasing activation of the hippocampus and a bilateral brain network including the frontal and temporal cortices. Our data show that in healthy aging and in AD, common and distinct compensatory mechanisms are employed to keep up a certain level of memory performance. Both in healthy aging and in patients with AD, an increased level of monitoring and control processes mediated by the (right) frontal lobe seems to be necessary to maintain a certain level of memory performance. In addition, memory performance in healthy older subjects seems to rely on an increased effort in encoding item-specific semantic and contextual information in lateral areas of the (left) temporal lobe. In AD patients, on the other hand, the maintenance of memory performance is related to an increase of activation of the (left) hippocampus in conjunction with a bilateral network of cortical areas that might be involved with phonological and visual rehearsal of the incoming information.