Differences in electroencephalography oscillations between normal aging and mild cognitive impairment during semantic memory retrieval

Hsueh Sheng Chiang, Elizabeth A. Lydon, Michael A. Kraut, John Hart, Raksha A. Mudar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Semantic memory remains relatively stable with normal cognitive aging and declines in early stages of neurodegenerative disease. We measured electroencephalography (EEG) oscillatory correlates of semantic memory retrieval to examine the effects of normal and pathological aging. Twenty-nine cognitively healthy young adults (YA), 22 cognitively healthy aging adults (HA) and 20 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) completed a semantic memory retrieval task with concurrent EEG recording in which they judged whether two words (features of objects) led to retrieval of an object (retrieval) or not (non-retrieval). Event-related power changes contrasting the two conditions (retrieval vs. non-retrieval) within theta, alpha, low-beta and high-beta EEG frequency bands were examined for normal aging (YA vs. HA) and pathological aging effects (HA vs. MCI). With no behavioural differences between the two normal age groups, we found later theta and alpha event-related power differences between conditions only in YA and a high-beta event-related power difference only in HA. For pathological aging effects, with reduced accuracy in MCI, we found different EEG patterns of early event-related beta power differences between conditions in MCI compared with HA and an event-related low-beta power difference only in HA. Beta oscillations were correlated with behavioural performance only in HA. We conclude that the aging brain relies on faster (beta) oscillations during the semantic memory task. With pathological aging, retrieval accuracy declines and pattern of beta oscillation changes. The findings provide insights about age-related neural mechanisms underlying semantic memory and have implications for early detection of pathological aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2278-2296
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • EEG
  • MCI
  • aging
  • semantic memory
  • semantic retrieval
  • time-frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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