Age-Related Differences in the Retrieval and Definition of Events from Memory
Degree awarded: Ph.D. Psychology. American University
Older adults often struggle to recall events from a specific time and specific place when presented with a cue word (Piolino et al., 2010). When they are able to successfully retrieve an event, they tend to recall fewer specific details, focusing instead on contextual and factual information (Levine, Svoboda, Hay, Winocur, & Moscovitch, 2002). These age differences are not relegated to the retrieval scenario alone; at encoding older adults also show differences in the way they segment ongoing information into discrete events (Zacks, Speer, Vettel, & Jacoby, 2006). The present work investigated age differences in the retrieval and definition of events from memory. First we delineated the age differences in neural activity during autobiographical recall. Second, we established how age alters event definitions during retrieval. Finally, we explored whether a more global change in event understanding could account for age differences in event memory. Our results highlight key differences in brain activity during autobiographical memory retrieval in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate, and in the functional connectivity between these regions and the hippocampus. Further, our results demonstrate age differences in event definitions during perception and retrieval. We conclude by highlighting how these findings relate to the processes of memory retrieval and event segmentation.
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