Episodic priming and memory for temporal source: event-related potentials reveal age-related differences in prefrontal functioning

Psychol Aging. 1999 Sep;14(3):390-413. doi: 10.1037//0882-7974.14.3.390.


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from young (M = 25) and older (M = 71) adults during a recognition memory paradigm that assessed episodic priming. Participants studied two temporally distinct lists of sentences (each with two unassociated nouns). At test, in response to the nouns, participants made old-new, followed by remember (context)-know (familiarity) and source (i.e., list) judgments. Both young and older adults showed equivalent episodic priming effects. However, compared to the young adults, the older adults showed a greater source performance decrement than item memory performance decrement. Both age groups showed equivalent posterior-maximal old-new ERP effects. However, only the young produced a frontal-maximal, late onset old-new effect that differed as a function of subsequent list attribution. Because source memory is thought to be mediated by prefrontal cortex, we conclude that age-related memory differences may be due to a deficit in a prefrontal cortical system that underlies source memory and are not likely to be due to an age-related decline in episodic priming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cues
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Word Association Tests