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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013 Jun;21(6):580-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2012.12.021. Epub 2013 Jan 24.

Early prefrontal activation as a mechanism to prevent forgetting in the context of interference.

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Laboratory of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, Center for Biomedical Technology (Technical University of Madrid and Complutense University of Madrid), Spain; Department of Psychology, Camilo José Cela University, Madrid, Spain. Electronic address:



Recent research has focused on interference resolution deficits as the main cause of short-term memory decreases in aging. To determine whether activation of brain compensatory mechanisms occur during the encoding process in older people. Moreover, two different levels of interference (distraction and interruption) were presented during the maintenance period to examine how they modulate brain activity profiles.


A delayed match-to-sample task with two experimental conditions: distraction and interruption.


Twenty-seven young adults from Complutense University of Madrid and 20 healthy older adults from Complutense Elderly University of Madrid.


Magnetoencephalography scans were recorded during the execution of a working memory interference task. Brain activity sources from younger and older adults during the encoding stage were compared in each condition using minimum norm estimation analyses.


The elderly showed enhancement of prefrontal activity during early latencies of the encoding process in both conditions. In the distraction condition, enhanced activity was located in left ventrolateral prefrontal regions, whereas in the interruption condition, enhanced activity was observed in the right ventral prefrontal areas and anterior cingulate cortex.


Increased recruitment of prefrontal regions in the elderly might be related to the processing depth of information, encoding of new information and semantic associations that are successfully recalled, and with interference resolution and preparatory control when the level of interference becomes higher. These prefrontal modulations during early latencies might reflect a higher top-down control of the encoding process in normal aging to prevent forgetting.

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