Functional neuroimaging of self-referential encoding with age.

Department of Psychology, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, USA.
Neuropsychologia (Impact Factor: 3.45). 09/2009; 48(1):211-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.09.006
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Aging impacts memory formation and the engagement of frontal and medial temporal regions. However, much of the research to date has focused on the encoding of neutral verbal and visual information. The present fMRI study investigated age differences in a social encoding task while participants made judgments about the self or another person. Although previous studies identified an intact self-reference effect with age, subserved by robust engagement of medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) by both young and older adults, we identified a number of age differences. In regions including superior mPFC, inferior prefrontal cortex, and anterior and posterior cingulate cortex, young and older adults exhibited reversals in the pattern of activity for self and other conditions. Whereas young primarily evidenced subsequent forgetting effects in the self-reference condition, older adults demonstrated subsequent memory effects in the other-reference condition. These results indicate fundamental differences across the age groups in the engagement of elaborative encoding processes. We suggest that older adults may encode information about the self in a more normative manner, whereas young adults focus on encoding the unique aspects of the self and distinguishing the self from others.

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