In this event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated age-related differences in brain activity associated with conceptual repetition priming in young and older adults. Participants performed a speeded "living/nonliving" classification task with 3 repetitions of familiar objects. Both young and older adults showed a similar magnitude of behavioral priming to repeated objects and evidenced repetition-related activation reductions in fusiform gyrus, superior occipital, middle, and inferior temporal cortex, and inferior frontal and insula regions. The neural priming effect in young adults was extensive and continued through both the second and third stimulus repetitions, and neural priming in older adults was markedly attenuated and reached floor at the second repetition. In young adults, greater neural priming in multiple brain regions correlated with greater behavioral facilitation and in older adults, only activation reduction in the left inferior frontal correlated with faster behavioral responses. These findings provide evidence for altered neural priming in older adults despite preserved behavioral priming, and suggest the possibility that age-invariant behavioral priming is observed as a result of more sustained neural processing of stimuli in older adults which might be a form of compensatory neural activity.
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