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Department of Cognitive Science

Seminar Abstract

Memory reorganisation and ageing: same-old or different?

Speaker : Dr Alexa Morcom, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, UK.
Date : 15th of December 2017, 12:30PM until 1:30PM
Location : Australian Hearing Hub, 3.610, Macquarie University.

    To what degree does healthy ageing involve reorganisation of cognitive and brain function? I will discuss two current lines of work which address this from different perspectives. In the first, we address neurocognitive theories proposing large-scale functional reorganisation. Functional neuroimaging studies often show increased activity in prefrontal brain regions in older people. This has been proposed to reflect a compensatory shift to greater reliance on prefrontal cortex, helping to maintain cognitive function. Alternatively, the increased activity may be less specific, reflecting dedifferentiation of neuronal responses due to structural and neurochemical changes accompanying aging. I will report results of a novel model-based multivariate analysis applied to two datasets from a large population-derived adult lifespan sample (Cam-CAN cohort; http://www.cam-can.org/). These suggest reduced specificity rather than compensation. In the second part, we explore the proposal that false memory errors in older people reflect a greater reliance on preserved semantic knowledge which may reflect a form of compensation. Data from different behavioural paradigms show that this is not always the case. We situate episodic memory decline as part of a wider pattern of declining and preserved mental abilities.

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