Comparing neural activity during autobiographical memory retrieval between younger and older adults: An ALE meta-analysis

Neurobiol Aging. 2022 Nov:119:8-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2022.06.009. Epub 2022 Jun 28.


Aging changes autobiographical memory (AM), yet the neural correlates of these changes are poorly understood, likely due to methodological variability across studies. We conducted a quantitative meta-analysis using activation likelihood estimation (GingerALE 3.0.2) to identify regions AM retrieval engaged in younger and older adults across 45 studies (Nyounger = 24 studies, 357 participants, 349 foci; Nolder = 21 studies, 299 participants, 356 foci), considering methodological differences in cueing AMs (i.e., using generic vs. specific/personalized cues). Both age-groups commonly engaged a left-lateralized pattern of brain activity that included the hippocampus, retrosplenial/posterior cingulate cortex, and angular gyrus. Younger adults showed enhanced right posterior cingulate cortical activity, while older adults presented with bilateral activity in the hippocampus, and enhanced activity in left middle temporal gyrus, precuneus, and retrosplenial cortex. Exploratory analyses indicated that age-related commonalties and differences in brain activity depended on the method of AM cuing. These findings suggest that key regions of AM retrieval are preserved in older age, yet subtle changes exist, especially depending on how AMs are cued.

Keywords: ALE; Aging; Autobiographical memory; Meta-analysis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology