Age-related changes to oscillatory dynamics in hippocampal and neocortical networks

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Abstract

Recent models of hippocampal function have emphasized its role in relational binding – the ability to form lasting representations regarding the relations among distinct elements or items which can support memory performance, even over brief delays (e.g., several seconds). The present study examined the extent to which aging is associated with changes in the recruitment of oscillatory activity within hippocampal and neocortical regions to support relational binding performance on a short delay visuospatial memory task. Structural magnetic resonance imaging and MEG were used to characterize potential age-related changes in hippocampal volume, oscillatory activity, and subsequent memory performance, and the relationships among them. Participants were required to bind the relative visuospatial positions of objects that were presented singly across time. Subsequently, the objects were re-presented simultaneously, and participants were required to indicate whether the relative spatial positions among the objects had been maintained. Older and younger adults demonstrated similar task accuracy, and older adults had preserved hippocampal volumes relative to younger adults. Age-group differences were found in pre-stimulus theta (˜5 Hz) and beta (˜20 Hz) oscillations, and this pre-stimulus activity was related to hippocampal volumes in younger adults. Age-group differences were also found in the recruitment of oscillatory activity from the pre-stimulus period to the task. Only younger adults showed a task-related change in theta power that was predictive of memory performance. In contrast, older adults demonstrated task-related alpha (˜10 Hz) oscillatory power changes that were not observed in younger adults. These findings provide novel evidence for the role of the hippocampus and functionally connected regions in relational binding that is disrupted in aging. The present findings are discussed in the context of current models regarding the cognitive neuroscience of aging.

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