Encoding Differences in Aging Adults can Explain Associative Memory Deficits
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The relationship between aging and associative memory decline has been well-established in literature, however there is no clear reasoning for this decline. Recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that aging adults show decreased neural specificity across the cortex, now commonly termed dedifferentiation. The current research attempts to find a relationship between increased dedifferentiation with age and their resulting decreases in associative memory performance. By utilizing multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) classifiers, the level of neural distinctiveness of the variably aged adults can be quantified and compared to associative memory performance. We found that neural distinctiveness was decreased with age as well as retrieval of increasing levels of specificity of associate items. This suggests that the associative memory decline in older adults can be explained by a decrease in neural specificity for the specifics of associate items during encoding.