The distinctiveness of neural information representation is crucial for successful memory performance but declines with advancing age. Computational models implicate age-related neural dedifferentiation on the level of item representations, but previous studies mostly focused on age differences of categorical information representation in higher-order visual regions. In an age-comparative fMRI study, we combined univariate analyses and whole-brain searchlight pattern similarity analyses to elucidate age differences in neural distinctiveness at both category and item levels and their relation to memory. Age-related neural dedifferentiation was shown as reduced category-selective processing in ventral visual cortex and impoverished item specificity in occipital regions. Importantly, successful subsequent memory performance built upon high item stability which was greater in younger than older adults. Finally, we identified a multivariate profile of neural distinctiveness across representational levels that captured both age group and recognition performance differences, emphasizing that neural dedifferentiation is a generalized phenomenon in the aging brain.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience