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Poster E6

Understanding the role of visual processing in older adults’ memory retrieval

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Jaclyn Ford1 (, Elizabeth Kensinger1, Samantha Williams1, R. Gerald Monkman1, Brianna Lenza1, Sandry Garcia1; 1Boston College

A prevailing view in the cognitive aging literature is that memory impairments in older adults are related to ineffective recruitment of sensory regions during memory search, driven by a global sensory deficit. However, such patterns may be reversed in paradigms that include a subsequent memory “elaboration” phase. This age-by-time interaction suggests that older adults can engage posterior visual processing regions during memory tasks, but that this recruitment may be dependent on specific task design. The current research was designed to better understand when and how visual processing contributes to memory retrieval in older adults, specifically comparing two hypotheses: a) that visual processing regions can be recruited by older adults whenever they are provided additional retrieval time, and b) that visual processing regions are recruited by older adults following explicit prompts to “elaborate” on the retrieved image. 101 participants from across the adult lifespan (18-93) incidentally encoded a series of word-image pairs, then completed a three-part retrieval task after a thirty minute delay. Replicating prior research, age-by-time interactions were identified in posterior regions when participants were given additional time and the explicit instruction to elaborate on their memory. Notably, this pattern was not present when participants were given additional time, only, suggesting that time, alone, is insufficient to allow older adults to access visual processing mechanisms. Instead, retrieval support, in the form of the explicit “elaboration” instruction, may alter how older adults approach the memory task.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Development & aging


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April 13–16  |  2024