Poster Session A, Saturday, March 23, 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Nonverbal declarative memory in older adults: effects of age, sex, and education
Jana Reifegerste1,2, João Veríssimo3, Michael D. Rugg4, Mariel Y. Pullman5, Laura Babcock6, Dana A. Glei7, Maxine Weinstein7, Noreen Goldman8, Michael T. Ullman1; 1Department of Neuroscience, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA, 2Institute for Psychology, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany, 3Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism, University of Potsdam, Germany, 4University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, TX, USA, 5New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, USA, 6Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, 7Center for Population and Health, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA, 8Office of Population Research, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA
The medial-temporal-lobe-based declarative memory system is critical for everyday life. Evidence suggests that learning verbal information in declarative memory declines with age, but that sex and early-life education may moderate these weaknesses. However, the status of nonverbal declarative memory in aging remains unclear. We examined nonverbal memory in 704 older adults (aged 58-98 years, 0-17 years of education) in a non-Western population, in Taiwan, by probing recognition memory following incidental encoding. Items were drawings of real objects (e.g., hairbrush) and made-up objects. Mixed-effects regression revealed that age negatively impacted nonverbal memory (only linear effects), though this decline was moderated by sex and object type. It was steeper for males than females (leading to a female advantage beginning at age 70), though only for real objects. Remembering made-up objects showed shallow declines with no sex differences. In contrast, education was positively associated with memory, but also interacted with sex (education benefited women more than men) and object type (education benefited remembering real more than made-up objects). In men, the overall memory gains associated with each year of education were two times larger than the losses experienced during each year of aging; in women, they were five times larger. The evidence suggests that age-related nonverbal memory declines may be countered by education, though both effects are modulated by sex, as well as by whether learning relates to pre-existing knowledge or new information. The findings elucidate neurocognitive accounts of declarative memory in aging, and suggest possible downstream benefits from education, especially for girls.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Development & aging