The effect of age on word-stem cued recall: a behavioral and electrophysiological study

Brain Res. 2009 Sep 15;1289:56-68. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.07.013. Epub 2009 Jul 15.


The present study investigated the effects of aging on behavioral cued-recall performance and on the neural correlates of explicit memory using event-related potentials (ERPs) under shallow and deep encoding conditions. At test, participants were required to complete old and new three-letter word stems using the letters as retrieval cues. The main results were as follows: (1) older participants exhibited the same level of explicit memory as young adults with the same high level of education. Moreover older adults benefited as much as young ones from deep processing at encoding; (2) brain activity at frontal sites showed that the shallow old/new effect developed and ended earlier for older than young adults. In contrast, the deep old/new effect started later for older than for young adults and was sustained up to 1000 ms in both age groups. Moreover, the results suggest that the frontal old/new effect was bilateral but greater over the right than the left electrode sites from 600 ms onward; (3) there were no differences at parietal sites between age groups: the old/new effect developed from 400 ms under both encoding conditions and was sustained up to 1000 ms under the deep condition but ended earlier (800 ms) under the shallow condition. These ERP results indicate significant age-related changes in brain activity associated with the voluntary retrieval of previously encoded information, in spite of similar behavioral performance of young and older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cues*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*