Healthy ageing reduces the precision of episodic memory retrieval.

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Korkki, Saana M 
Richter, Franziska R 
Jeyarathnarajah, Priyanga 
Simons, Jon S 

Episodic memory declines with older age, but it is unresolved whether this decline reflects reduced probability of successfully retrieving information from memory, or decreased precision of the retrieved information. Here, we used continuous measures of episodic memory retrieval in combination with computational mixture modeling of participants' retrieval errors to distinguish between these two potential accounts of age-related memory deficits. In three experiments, young and older participants encoded stimulus displays consisting of everyday objects varying along different perceptual features (e.g., location, color and orientation) in a circular space. At test, participants recreated the features of studied objects using a continuous response dial. Across all 3 experiments, we observed significant age-related declines in the precision of episodic memory retrieval, whereas significant age differences in retrieval success were limited to the most challenging task condition. Reductions in mnemonic precision were evident across different object features retained in long-term memory and persisted after controlling for age-related decreases in the fidelity of perception and working memory. The findings highlight impoverished precision of memory representations as one factor contributing to age-related episodic memory loss and suggest that the cognitive and neural changes associated with older age may differentially affect distinct aspects of episodic retrieval. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Aged, Female, Healthy Aging, Humans, Male, Memory, Episodic, Middle Aged
Journal Title
Psychol Aging
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American Psychological Association (APA)
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James S McDonnell Foundation (220020333)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/L02263X/1)
Medical Research Council (G1000183)
Wellcome Trust (093875/Z/10/Z)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (1646442)
This study was funded by BBSRC grant BB/L02263X/1 and James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award #220020333 awarded to J.S.S., and was carried out within the University of Cambridge Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, funded by a joint award from the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.