Early age-related changes in episodic memory retrieval as revealed by event-related potentials

Neuroreport. 2009 Jan 28;20(2):191-6. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32831b44ca.


Familiarity is better preserved than recollection in ageing. The age at which changes first occur and the slope of the subsequent decline, however, remain unclear. In this study, we investigated changes in episodic memory, by using event-related potentials (ERPs) in young (m=24), middle-aged (m=58) and older (m=70) adults. Although behavioural performance did not change before the age of 65 years, changes in ERP correlates were already present in the middle-aged adults. The ERP correlates of recollection and monitoring processes were the first to be affected by ageing, with a linear decrease as age increased. Conversely, the ERP correlate of familiarity remained unchanged, at least up to the age of 65 years. These results suggest a differential time course for the age effects on episodic retrieval.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult