The hippocampus is deteriorated in various pathologies such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and such deterioration has been linked to memory impairment. By contrast, the structural and functional effects of normal aging on the hippocampus is a matter of debate, with some findings suggesting deterioration and others providing evidence of preservation. This constitutes a crucial question since many investigations on AD are based on the assumption that the deterioration of the hippocampus is the breaking point between normal and pathological aging. A growing number of fMRI studies specifically aimed at investigating hippocampal engagement in various cognitive tasks, notably memory tasks, but the results have been inconclusive. Here, we optimized the episodic face-name paired-associates task in order to test the functioning of the hippocampus in normal aging. Critically, we found no difference in the activation of the hippocampus between the young and a group of older participants. Analysis of individual patterns of activation substantiated this impression. Collectively, these findings provide evidence of preserved hippocampal functioning in normal aging.
Copyright © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.