October 30, 2020

Effects of age on goal-dependent modulation of episodic memory retrieval

Retrieval gating refers to the ability to modulate the retrieval of features of a single memory episode according to behavioral goals. Recent findings demonstrate that younger adults engage retrieval gating by attenuating the representation of task-irrelevant features of an episode. Here, we examine whether retrieval gating varies with age. Younger and older adults incidentally encoded words superimposed over scenes or scrambled backgrounds that were displayed in one of three spatial locations. Participants subsequently underwent fMRI as they completed two memory tasks: the background task, which tested memory for the word’s background, and the location task, testing memory for the word’s location. Employing univariate and multivariate approaches, we demonstrated that younger, but not older adults, exhibited attenuated reinstatement of scene information when it was goal-irrelevant (during the location task). Additionally, in younger adults only, the strength of scene reinstatement in the parahippocampal place area during the background task was related to item and source memory performance. Together, these findings point to an age-related decline in the ability to engage retrieval gating.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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