Contributions of representational distinctiveness and stability to memory performance and age differences

Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2022 May;29(3):443-462. doi: 10.1080/13825585.2021.2019184. Epub 2021 Dec 23.


Long-standing theories of cognitive aging suggest that memory decline is associated with age-related differences in the way information is neurally represented. Multivariate pattern similarity analyses enabled researchers to take a representational perspective on brain and cognition, and allowed them to study the properties of neural representations that support successful episodic memory. Two representational properties have been identified as crucial for memory performance, namely the distinctiveness and the stability of neural representations. Here, we review studies that used multivariate analysis tools for different neuroimaging techniques to clarify how these representational properties relate to memory performance across adulthood. While most evidence on age differences in neural representations involved stimulus category information , recent studies demonstrated that particularly item-level stability and specificity of activity patterns are linked to memory success and decline during aging. Overall, multivariate methods offer a versatile tool for our understanding of age differences in the neural representations underlying memory.

Keywords: Representational pattern similarity; aging; episodic memory; neural distinctiveness; neural stability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Episodic*