Neural Processes Supporting Young and Older Adults' Emotional Memories

Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 4.09). 08/2008; 20(7):1161-73. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20080
Source: DBLP


Young and older adults are more likely to remember emotional information than neutral information. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging study examined the neural processes supporting young (ages 18-35) and older (ages 62-79) adults' successful encoding of positive, negative, and neutral objects (e.g., a sundae, a grenade, a canoe). The results revealed general preservation of the emotional memory network across the age groups. Both groups recruited the amygdala and the orbito-frontal cortex during the successful encoding of positive and negative information. Both ages also showed valence-specific recruitment: right fusiform activity was greatest during the successful encoding of negative information, whereas left prefrontal and temporal activity was greatest during the successful encoding of positive information. These valence-specific processes are consistent with behavioral evidence that negative information is processed with perceptual detail, whereas positive information is processed at a conceptual or schematic level. The only age differences in emotional memory emerged during the successful encoding of positive items: Older adults showed more activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and along the cingulate gyrus than young adults. Because these regions often are associated with self-referential processing, these results suggest that older adults' mnemonic boost for positive information may stem from an increased tendency to process this information in relation to themselves.

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    • "Moreover, experimental studies have repeatedly documented reduced distractibility by negative information [3]–[5], [22], [23] and preferred processing of positive distractors and information in older as compared to younger adults [6], [7], which was directly associated with emotional well-being [6]. More support comes from recent neuroimaging studies, demonstrating an increased engagement of ventromedial brain regions during the generation of a PE in older adults [6], [24], [25]. Ventromedial brain regions, including the anterior cingulate cortex, are assumed to be key nodes of the “emotion regulation network” [26]–[28]. "
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    ABSTRACT: There is emerging evidence for a positivity effect in healthy aging, which describes an age-specific increased focus on positive compared to negative information. Life-span researchers have attributed this effect to the selective allocation of cognitive resources in the service of prioritized emotional goals. We explored the basic principles of this assumption by assessing selective attention and memory for visual stimuli, differing in emotional content and self-relevance, in young and old participants. To specifically address the impact of cognitive control, voluntary attentional selection during the presentation of multiple-item displays was analyzed and linked to participants' general ability of cognitive control. Results revealed a positivity effect in older adults' selective attention and memory, which was particularly pronounced for self-relevant stimuli. Focusing on positive and ignoring negative information was most evident in older participants with a generally higher ability to exert top-down control during visual search. Our findings highlight the role of controlled selectivity in the occurrence of a positivity effect in aging. Since the effect has been related to well-being in later life, we suggest that the ability to selectively allocate top-down control might represent a resilience factor for emotional health in aging.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    • "They also reflect later involvement of neural circuits that allow emotional stimuli to be maintained in WM and bound to autobiographical events. For example, Kensinger and Schacter [31] detected greater activation in the medial PFC and the cingulate gyrus in a group of older adults compared to younger adults. These regions are known to be typically involved in autoreferential processing, highlighting the tendency for older adults to link online information to personal events or to the generation of regulation strategies. "
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    ABSTRACT: A number of recent studies have reported that working memory does not seem to show typical age-related deficits in healthy older adults when emotional information is involved. Differently, studies about the short-term ability to encode and actively manipulate emotional information in dementia of Alzheimer's type are few and have yielded mixed results. Here, we review behavioural and neuroimaging evidence that points to a complex interaction between emotion modulation and working memory in Alzheimer's. In fact, depending on the function involved, patients may or may not show an emotional benefit in their working memory performance. In addition, this benefit is not always clearly biased (e.g., towards negative or positive information). We interpret this complex pattern of results as a consequence of the interaction between multiple factors including the severity of Alzheimer's disease, the nature of affective stimuli, and type of working memory task.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · International Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
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    • "Optimism in younger adults seems to be related, at least in part, to functional activity of the inferior frontal gyrus (Sharot et al. 2011) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) (Sharot et al. 2007). Importantly, a large body of literature links age-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) differences in the ACC to a positivity effect on cognitive processing and greater emotion regulation with age (Kensinger & Schacter, 2008; Leclerc & Kensinger, 2008; Brassen et al. 2011, 2012; Samanez-Larkin & Carstensen, 2011). Structural abnormalities of the ACC, in particular the dorsal ACC, have been identified in clinical depression, where pessimism is a core feature (Vasic et al. 2008; Pizzagalli, 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Healthy older adults report greater well-being and life satisfaction than their younger counterparts. One potential explanation for this is enhanced optimism. We tested the influence of age on optimistic and pessimistic beliefs about the future and the associated structural neural correlates. Eighteen young and 18 healthy older adults performed a belief updating paradigm, measuring differences in updating beliefs for desirable and undesirable information about future negative events. These measures were related to regional brain volume, focusing on the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) because this region is strongly linked to a positivity bias in older age. We demonstrate an age-related reduction in updating beliefs when older adults are faced with undesirable, but not desirable, information about negative events. This greater 'update bias' in older age persisted even after controlling for a variety of variables including subjective rating scales and poorer overall memory. A structural brain correlate of this greater 'update bias' was evident in greater grey matter volume in the dorsal ACC in older but not in young adults. We show a greater update bias in healthy older age. The link between this bias and relative volume of the ACC suggests a shared mechanism with an age-related positivity bias. Older adults frequently have to make important decisions relating to personal, health and financial issues. Our findings have wider behavioural implications in these contexts because an enhanced optimistic update bias may skew such real-world decision making.
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