Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging

By Roberto Cabeza; Lars Nyberg et al. | Go to book overview

12
Functional Connectivity During
Memory Tasks in Healthy Aging
and Dementia

Cheryl L. Grady

Memory failure is a common complaint of older people. However, agerelated memory losses are very task dependent; performance on some tasks drops substantially with increasing age, whereas performance on other tasks shows essentially no change across the adult years. Older individuals have particular difficulty with episodic memory, defined as the conscious recollection of events that have occurred in a person’s experience (Tulving, 1983). Age-related difficulties in this type of memory may be related to deficits in encoding the new material (Craik & Byrd, 1982), as well as to reductions in the ability to retrieve previously learned information (Burke & Light, 1981). Within episodic memory, performance on recognition tasks can be relatively maintained with age, whereas free recall is consistently reduced (Craik & Jennings, 1992; Craik & McDowd, 1987). In contrast, semantic memory, or the accumulation of knowledge about the world, is maintained in older adults (Craik & Jennings, 1992). In terms of short-term memory function, working memory tasks show substantial age-related declines (for reviews see Balota, Dolan, & Duchek, 2000; Zacks, Hasher, & Li, 2000), but other closely related short-term memory tasks (e.g., span measures) show little change (Craik & Jennings, 1992).

Dysfunction in episodic memory also is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and is one of the earliest and most devastating symptoms (Grady et al., 1988; Jacobs et al., 1995; Price et al., 1993; Zec, 1993). Delayed memory is affected to a greater extent than is immediate memory, although the latter is clearly impaired as well (Hart et al., 1988; Moss et al., 1986; Welsh et al., 1991). This early impairment of episodic memory in AD is consistent with the damage to medial temporal structures, including the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, that is thought to occur early in the disease (Braak, Braak, & Bohl, 1993; Kemper, 1994). Unlike healthy aging, semantic memory also is impaired early in AD, although to a lesser extent than

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