Prefrontally-mediated alterations in the retrieval of negative events: Links to memory vividness across the adult lifespan

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Prior research has identified age-by-valence interactions in both behavior and neural recruitment; age has been associated with increased retrieval of positive relative to negative information as well as an increased tendency to recruit prefrontal regions during negative event retrieval and for this recruitment to correspond to decreased hippocampal connectivity. To date, the explicit relation between prefrontal recruitment and memory phenomenology has not been examined. The current study examined the link between these two measures by examining age-by-valence interactions in the relation between prefrontal recruitment and subjective ratings of memory vividness. Participants (ages 18–85) encoded visual images paired with verbal titles. During a scanned retrieval session, they were presented with titles and asked whether each had been seen with an image during encoding. Participants provided vividness ratings following retrieval of each image. Age was associated with greater prefrontally-mediated alterations in negative event phenomenology, with age-related increases in the relation between ventral prefrontal regions and negative event vividness and age-related decreases in the relation between dorsal prefrontal regions and negative event vividness. This analysis confirmed a critical role of PFC regions in age-by-valence interactions, where age reversed the relation between PFC recruitment and the subjective richness of retrieved memory representation. These findings are consistent with studies that reveal age-related enhancements in emotion regulation, and suggest that older adults may be engaging in these processes during retrieval of negative events.

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