Age-related differences in prefrontal cortex activity during retrieval monitoring: Testing the compensation and dysfunction accounts

Academic Article


  • Current theories of cognitive aging emphasize that the prefrontal cortex might not only be a major source of dysfunction but also a source of compensation. We evaluated neural activity associated with retrieval monitoring-or the selection and evaluation of recollected information during memory retrieval-for evidence of dysfunction or compensation. Younger and older adults studied pictures and words and were subsequently given criterial recollection tests during event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. Although memory accuracy was greater on the picture test than the word test in both groups, activity in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was associated with greater retrieval monitoring demands (word test > picture test) only in younger adults. Similarly, DLPFC activity was consistently associated with greater item difficulty (studied > nonstudied) only in younger adults. Older adults instead exhibited high levels of DLPFC activity for all of these conditions, and activity was greater than younger adults even when test performance was naturally matched across the groups (picture test). Correlations also differed between DLPFC activity and test performance across the groups. Collectively, these findings are more consistent with accounts of DLPFC dysfunction than compensation, suggesting that aging disrupts the otherwise beneficial coupling between DLPFC recruitment and retrieval monitoring demands. © 2013 The Author.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Cerebral Cortex  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • McDonough IM; Wong JT; Gallo DA
  • Start Page

  • 1049
  • End Page

  • 1060
  • Volume

  • 23
  • Issue

  • 5