One of the more severe and consequential memory impairments experienced by older adults is the loss of the ability to form and remember associations. Although the associative deficit is often assumed to be unitary, memory episodes may contain different types of associations (e.g., item–item, item–context). Research in younger adults suggests that these different association types may involve different neural mechanisms. This raises the possibility that different association types are not equally affected by aging. In order to investigate this, the current study directly compared memory across item–item and item–context associations in younger and older adults by manipulating the manner of presentation of the associations. Results indicate that the associative deficit in aging is not uniform and that aging has a greater impact on item–context compared to item–item associations. The results have implications for theories of associative memory, age-related cognitive decline, and the functional organization of the medial temporal lobe in aging.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Geriatrics and Gerontology
- Psychiatry and Mental health