Age-related decline in episodic memory has been partially attributed to older adults' reduced domain general processing resources. In the present study, we examined the effects of divided attention (DA) - a manipulation assumed to further deplete the already limited processing resources of older adults - on the neural correlates of recollection in young and older adults. Participants underwent fMRI scanning while they performed an associative recognition test in single and dual (tone detection) task conditions. Recollection effects were operationalized as greater BOLD activity elicited by test pairs correctly endorsed as 'intact' than pairs correctly or incorrectly endorsed as 'rearranged'. Detrimental effects of DA on associative recognition performance were identified in older but not young adults. The magnitudes of recollection effects did not differ between the single and dual (tone detection) tasks in either age group. Across the task conditions, age-invariant recollection effects were evident in most members of the core recollection network. However, while young adults demonstrated robust recollection effects in left angular gyrus, angular gyrus effects were undetectable in the older adults in either task condition. With the possible exception of this result, the findings suggest that DA did not influence processes supporting the retrieval and representation of associative information in either young or older adults, and converge with prior behavioral findings to suggest that episodic retrieval operations are little affected by DA.
Keywords: Aging; Core recollection network; Dual task; Episodic memory; fMRI.
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