Adult age differences in visual word identification: functional neuroanatomy by positron emission tomography.
Adult age differences in the neural systems mediating semantic (context-independent) memory were investigated using positron emission tomography (PET). Younger (20-29 years) and older (62-70 years) participants performed lexical decision (word/nonword discrimination) and nonsemantic (simple visual search) baseline tasks during PET scanning. Within the lexical decision task, display duration and presentation rate were varied across scans. The behavioral data suggested that although an age-related slowing was evident in visual feature and response processing, the retrieval of semantic/lexical information was similar for younger and older adults. For both age groups, lexical-related activation occurred in inferior prefrontal and occipitotemporal regions of the left hemisphere. Differential activation, as a function of age group, was observed in the left occipitotemporal pathway as a result of older adults' maintaining higher levels of neural activity in striate cortex (during visual search) and in inferior temporal cortex (during lexical decision). The prefrontal activation was similar for the two age groups. Thus, although this form of semantic memory retrieval does not undergo significant age-related decline, an age-related change in the associated pattern of neural activation is evident. These findings differ from previous neuroimaging studies of episodic (context-dependent) memory retrieval, which have suggested that age-related compensatory mechanisms are expressed primarily by greater activation of prefrontal regions for older adults than for younger adults.
Madden, DJ; Langley, LK; Denny, LL; Turkington, TG; Provenzale, JM; Hawk, TC; Coleman, RE
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