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Neurobiol Aging. 2013 Feb;34(2):451-67. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2012.03.011. Epub 2012 Apr 28.

Effects of aging on neural connectivity underlying selective memory for emotional scenes.

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Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA.


Older adults show age-related reductions in memory for neutral items within complex visual scenes, but just like young adults, older adults exhibit a memory advantage for emotional items within scenes compared with the background scene information. The present study examined young and older adults' encoding-stage effective connectivity for selective memory of emotional items versus memory for both the emotional item and its background. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, participants viewed scenes containing either positive or negative items within neutral backgrounds. Outside the scanner, participants completed a memory test for items and backgrounds. Irrespective of scene content being emotionally positive or negative, older adults had stronger positive connections among frontal regions and from frontal regions to medial temporal lobe structures than did young adults, especially when items and backgrounds were subsequently remembered. These results suggest there are differences between young and older adults' connectivity accompanying the encoding of emotional scenes. Older adults may require more frontal connectivity to encode all elements of a scene rather than just encoding the emotional item.

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