Fixation Reinstatement Supports Visuospatial Memory in Older Adults

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Abstract

Research using eye movement monitoring suggests that recapitulating the pattern of eye movements made during stimulus encoding at subsequent retrieval supports memory by reinstating the spatial layout of the encoded stimulus. In the present study, the authors investigated whether recapitulation of encoding fixations during a poststudy, stimulus-free delay period—an effect that has been previously linked to memory maintenance in younger adults—can support mnemonic performance in older adults. Older adults showed greater delay-period fixation reinstatement than younger adults, and this reinstatement supported age-equivalent performance on a subsequent visuospatial-memory-based change detection task, whereas in younger adults, the performance-enhancing effects of fixation reinstatement increased with task difficulty. Taken together, these results suggest that fixation reinstatement might reflect a compensatory response to increased cognitive load. The present findings provide novel evidence of compensatory fixation reinstatement in older adults and demonstrate the utility of eye movement monitoring for aging and memory research.

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