Influence of aging on the neural correlates of autobiographical, episodic, and semantic memory retrieval.
ABSTRACT: We used fMRI to assess the neural correlates of autobiographical, semantic, and episodic memory retrieval in healthy young and older adults. Participants were tested with an event-related paradigm in which retrieval demand was the only factor varying between trials. A spatio-temporal partial least square analysis was conducted to identify the main patterns of activity characterizing the groups across conditions. We identified brain regions activated by all three memory conditions relative to a control condition. This pattern was expressed equally in both age groups and replicated previous findings obtained in a separate group of younger adults. We also identified regions whose activity differentiated among the different memory conditions. These patterns of differentiation were expressed less strongly in the older adults than in the young adults, a finding that was further confirmed by a barycentric discriminant analysis. This analysis showed an age-related dedifferentiation in autobiographical and episodic memory tasks but not in the semantic memory task or the control condition. These findings suggest that the activation of a common memory retrieval network is maintained with age, whereas the specific aspects of brain activity that differ with memory content are more vulnerable and less selectively engaged in older adults. Our results provide a potential neural mechanism for the well-known age differences in episodic/autobiographical memory, and preserved semantic memory, observed when older adults are compared with younger adults.
Project description:Self-referential processing relies mainly on the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and enhances memory encoding (i.e., Self-Reference Effect, SRE) as it improves the accuracy and richness of remembering in both young and older adults. However, studies on age-related changes in the neural correlates of the SRE on the subjective (i.e., autonoetic consciousness) and the objective (i.e., source memory) qualitative features of episodic memory are lacking. In the present fMRI study, we compared the effects of a self-related (semantic autobiographical memory task) and a non self-related (general semantic memory task) encoding condition on subsequent episodic memory retrieval. We investigated encoding-related activity during each condition in two groups of 19 younger and 16 older adults. Behaviorally, the SRE improved subjective memory performance in both groups but objective memory only in young adults. At the neural level, a direct comparison between self-related and non self-related conditions revealed that SRE mainly activated the cortical midline system, especially the MPFC, in both groups. Additionally, in older adults and regardless of the condition, greater activity was found in a fronto-parietal network. Overall, correlations were noted between source memory performance and activity in the MPFC (irrespective of age) and visual areas (mediated by age). Thus, the present findings expand evidence of the role of the MPFC in self-referential processing in the context of source memory benefit in both young and older adults using incidental encoding via semantic autobiographical memory. However, our finding suggests that its role is less effective in aging.
Project description:Episodic memory refers to a complex and multifaceted process which enables the retrieval of richly detailed evocative memories from the past. In contrast, semantic memory is conceptualized as the retrieval of general conceptual knowledge divested of a specific spatiotemporal context. The neural substrates of the episodic and semantic memory systems have been dissociated in healthy individuals during functional imaging studies, and in clinical cohorts, leading to the prevailing view that episodic and semantic memory represent functionally distinct systems subtended by discrete neurobiological substrates. Importantly, however, converging evidence focusing on widespread neural networks now points to significant overlap between those regions essential for retrieval of autobiographical memories, episodic learning, and semantic processing. Here we review recent advances in episodic memory research focusing on neurodegenerative populations which has proved revelatory for our understanding of the complex interplay between episodic and semantic memory. Whereas episodic memory research has traditionally focused on retrieval of autobiographical events from the past, we also include evidence from the recent paradigm shift in which episodic memory is viewed as an adaptive and constructive process which facilitates the imagining of possible events in the future. We examine the available evidence which converges to highlight the pivotal role of semantic memory in providing schemas and meaning whether one is engaged in autobiographical retrieval for the past, or indeed, is endeavoring to construct a plausible scenario of an event in the future. It therefore seems plausible to contend that semantic processing may underlie most, if not all, forms of episodic memory, irrespective of temporal condition.
Project description:Autobiographical remembering can depend on two forms of memory: episodic (event) memory and autobiographical semantic memory (remembering personally relevant semantic knowledge, independent of recalling a specific experience). There is debate about the degree to which the neural signals that support episodic recollection relate to or build upon autobiographical semantic remembering. Pooling data from two fMRI studies of memory for real-world personal events, we investigated whether medial temporal lobe (MTL) and parietal subregions contribute to autobiographical episodic and semantic remembering. During scanning, participants made memory judgments about photograph sequences depicting past events from their life or from others' lives, and indicated whether memory was based on episodic or semantic knowledge. Results revealed several distinct functional patterns: activity in most MTL subregions was selectively associated with autobiographical episodic memory; the hippocampal tail, superior parietal lobule, and intraparietal sulcus were similarly engaged when memory was based on retrieval of an autobiographical episode or autobiographical semantic knowledge; and angular gyrus demonstrated a graded pattern, with activity declining from autobiographical recollection to autobiographical semantic remembering to correct rejections of novel events. Collectively, our data offer insights into MTL and parietal cortex functional organization, and elucidate circuitry that supports different forms of real-world autobiographical memory.
Project description:Specific odors can induce memories of the past, especially those associated with autobiographical and episodic memory. Odors associated with autobiographical memories have been found to elicit stronger activation in the orbitofrontal cortex, hippocampus, and parahippocampus compared with odors not linked to personal memories. Here, we examined whether continuous odor stimuli associated with autobiographical memories could activate the above olfactory areas in older adults and speculated regarding whether this odor stimulation could have a protective effect against age-related cognitive decline. Specifically, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the relationship between blood oxygen levels in olfactory regions and odor-induced subjective memory retrieval and emotions associated with autobiographical memory in older adults. In our group of healthy older adults, the tested odors induced autobiographical memories that were accompanied by increasing levels of retrieval and the feeling of being "brought back in time." The strength of the subjective feelings, including vividness of the memory and degree of comfort, impacted activation of the left fusiform gyrus and left posterior orbitofrontal cortex. Further, our path model suggested that the strength of memory retrieval and of the emotions induced by odor-evoked autobiographical memories directly influenced neural changes in the left fusiform gyrus, and impacted left posterior orbitofrontal cortex activation through the left fusiform response.
Project description:Deficits in autobiographical memory appear earlier for recent than for remote life periods over the course of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The present study aims to further our understanding of this graded effect by investigating the cognitive and neural substrates of recent versus remote autobiographical memories in patients with amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI) thanks to an autobiographical fluency task. 20 aMCI patients and 25 Healthy elderly Controls (HC) underwent neuropsychological tests assessing remote (20-to-30 years old) and recent (the ten last years) autobiographical memory as well as episodic and semantic memory, executive function and global cognition. All patients also had a structural MRI and an FDG-PET scan. Correlations were assessed between each autobiographical memory score and the other tests as well as grey matter volume and metabolism. Within the aMCI, performances for the remote period correlated with personal semantic memory and episodic memory retrieval whereas performances for the recent period only correlated with episodic memory retrieval. Neuroimaging analyses revealed significant correlations between performances for the remote period and temporal pole and temporo-parietal cortex volumes and anterior cingulate gyrus metabolism, while performances for the recent period correlated with hippocampal volume and posterior cingulate, medial prefrontal and hippocampus metabolism. The brain regions related with the retrieval of events from the recent period showed greater atrophy/hypometabolism in aMCI patients compared to HC than those involved in remote memories. Recall of recent memories essentially relies on episodic memory processes and brain network while remote memories also involve other processes such as semantic memory. This is consistent with the semanticization of memories with time and may explain the better resistance of remote memory in AD.
Project description:Although memory recall is known to be reduced with normal aging, little is known about the patterns of brain activity that accompany these recall failures. By assessing faulty memory, we can identify the brain regions engaged during retrieval attempts in the absence of successful memory and determine the impact of aging on this functional activity. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine age differences in brain activity associated with memory failure in three memory retrieval tasks: autobiographical (AM), episodic (EM) and semantic (SM). Compared to successful memory retrieval, both age groups showed more activity when they failed to recall a memory in regions consistent with the salience network (SLN), a brain network also associated with non-memory errors. Both groups also showed strong functional coupling among SLN regions during incorrect trials and in intrinsic patterns of functional connectivity. In comparison to young adults, older adults demonstrated (1) less activity within the SLN during unsuccessful AM trials; (2) weaker intrinsic functional connectivity between SLN nodes and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; and (3) less differentiation of SLN functional connectivity during incorrect trials across memory conditions. These results suggest that the SLN is engaged during recall failures, as it is for non-memory errors, which may be because errors in general have particular salience for adapting behavior. In older adults, the dedifferentiation of functional connectivity within the SLN across memory conditions and the reduction of functional coupling between it and prefrontal cortex may indicate poorer inter-network communication and less flexible use of cognitive control processes, either while retrieval is attempted or when monitoring takes place after retrieval has failed. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI: Memory & Aging.
Project description:When making choices between smaller, sooner rewards and larger, later ones, people tend to discount future outcomes. Individual differences in temporal discounting in older adults have been associated with episodic memory abilities and entorhinal cortical thickness. The cause of this association between better memory and more future-oriented choice remains unclear, however. One possibility is that people with perceptually richer recollections are more patient because they also imagine the future more vividly. Alternatively, perhaps people whose memories focus more on the meaning of events (i.e., are more "gist-based") show reduced temporal discounting, since imagining the future depends on interactions between semantic and episodic memory. We examined which categories of episodic details - perception-based or gist-based - are associated with temporal discounting in older adults. Older adults whose autobiographical memories were richer in perception-based details showed reduced temporal discounting. Furthermore, in an exploratory neuroanatomical analysis, both discount rates and perception-based details correlated with entorhinal cortical thickness. Retrieving autobiographical memories before choice did not affect temporal discounting, however, suggesting that activating episodic memory circuitry at the time of choice is insufficient to alter discounting in older adults. These findings elucidate the role of episodic memory in decision making, which will inform interventions to nudge intertemporal choices.
Project description:Autobiographical memory in amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI) is characterized by impaired retrieval of episodic memories, but relatively preserved personal semantic knowledge. This study aimed to identify (via FDG-PET) the neural substrates of impaired episodic specificity of autobiographical memories in 35 aMCI patients compared with 24 healthy elderly controls. Significant correlations between regional cerebral activity and the proportion of episodic details in autobiographical memories from two life periods were found in specific regions of an autobiographical brain network. In aMCI patients, more than in controls, specifically episodic memories from early adulthood were associated with metabolic activity in the cuneus and in parietal regions. We hypothesized that variable retrieval of episodic autobiographical memories in our aMCI patients would be related to their variable capacity to reactivate specific sensory-perceptual and contextual details of early adulthood events linked to reduced (occipito-parietal) visual imagery and less efficient (parietal) attentional processes. For recent memories (last year), a correlation emerged between the proportion of episodic details and activity in lateral temporal regions and the temporo-parietal junction. Accordingly, variable episodic memory for recent events may be related to the efficiency of controlled search through general events likely to provide cues for the retrieval of episodic details and to the ability to establish a self perspective favouring recollection.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Individuals differ in how they remember the past: some richly re-experience specific details of past episodes, whereas others recall only the gist of past events. Little research has examined how such trait mnemonics, or lifelong individual differences in memory capacities, relate to cognitive aging. We specifically examined trait episodic autobiographical memory (AM, the tendency to richly re-experience episodic details of past events) in relation to complaints of everyday cognitive functioning, which are known to increase with age. Although one might predict that individuals reporting higher trait-level episodic AM would be resistant to age-related decline in everyday function, we made the opposite prediction. That is, we predicted that those with lower trait-level episodic AM would be better equipped with compensatory strategies, practiced throughout the lifespan, to cope with age-related memory decline. Those with higher trait-level episodic AM would have enhanced sensitivity to age-related cognitive changes due to their tendency to rely on their perceived above-average memory function. METHODS:We tested these predictions in 959 older adults aged 50-93 using online subjective and objective measures of memory and cognitive function. Our key measures of interest were the Survey of Autobiographical Memory, a measure of autobiographical memory abilities; and the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire, a measure of everyday cognitive function. RESULTS:In keeping with our prediction, we found that complaints of day-to-day memory slips and errors (normally elevated with age) remained stable or even decreased with age among those reporting lower trait-level episodic AM, whereas those reporting higher trait-level episodic AM reported the expected age-related increase in such errors. This finding was specific to episodic AM and not observed for other autobiographical memory capacities (e.g., semantic, spatial). It was further unaccounted for by response bias or objectively assessed cognitive abilities. CONCLUSIONS:Congenitally low trait-level episodic AM may paradoxically confer a functional advantage in aging. This could be due to well-developed non-episodic strategies not present in those with higher abilities, who are more sensitive to age-related memory decline attributable to medial temporal lobe changes. Our findings emphasize the importance of considering individual differences when studying cognitive aging trajectories.
Project description:Autobiographical memory (AM) is multifaceted, incorporating the vivid retrieval of contextual detail (episodic AM), together with semantic knowledge that infuses meaning and coherence into past events (semantic AM). While neuropsychological evidence highlights a role for the hippocampus and anterior temporal lobe (ATL) in episodic and semantic AM, respectively, it is unclear whether these constitute dissociable large-scale AM networks. We used high angular resolution diffusion-weighted imaging and constrained spherical deconvolution-based tractography to assess white matter microstructure in 27 healthy young adult participants who were asked to recall past experiences using word cues. Inter-individual variation in the microstructure of the fornix (the main hippocampal input/output pathway) related to the amount of episodic, but not semantic, detail in AMs - independent of memory age. Conversely, microstructure of the inferior longitudinal fasciculus, linking occipitotemporal regions with ATL, correlated with semantic, but not episodic, AMs. Further, these significant correlations remained when controlling for hippocampal and ATL grey matter volume, respectively. This striking correlational double dissociation supports the view that distinct, large-scale distributed brain circuits underpin context and concepts in AM.