Contextual interference in recognition memory with age

Angela H. Gutchess, Andrew Hebrank, Bradley P. Sutton, Eric Leshikar, Michael W L Chee, Jiat Chow Tan, Joshua O S Goh, Denise C. Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous behavioral research suggests that although elderly adults' memory benefits from supportive context, misleading or irrelevant contexts produce greater interference. In the present study, we use event-related fMRI to investigate age differences when processing contextual information to make recognition judgments. Twenty-one young and twenty elderly incidentally encoded pictures of objects presented in meaningful contexts, and completed a memory test for the objects presented in identical or novel contexts. Elderly committed more false alarms than young when novel objects were presented in familiar, but task-irrelevant, contexts. Elderly showed reduced engagement of bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate relative to young, reflecting disruption of a cognitive control network for processing context with age. Disruption occurred for both high and low-performing elderly, suggesting that cognitive control deficits are pervasive with age. Despite showing disruption of the cognitive control network, high-performing elderly recruited additional middle and medial frontal regions that were not recruited by either low-performing elderly or young adults. This suggests that high-performing elderly may compensate for the disruption of the cognitive control network by recruiting additional frontal resources to overcome cognitive control deficits that affect recognition memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1338-1347
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 15 2007


  • Aging
  • Cognitive control
  • Context
  • Long-term memory
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology

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