The test was created to evaluate each participant’s ability to recall specific links between parts of an event. This form of memory is frequently disproportionately affected by aging.
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Upon analyzing the scans, researchers saw the brain processes that support remembering in older adults look like those in younger people. What they saw showed that there was an increase in hippocampal activity — the hippocampus is the part of the brain mainly associated with memory — and the reinstatement of activity patterns in the cortex that were there when people first experienced the event.
“It was striking that we were able to replicate this moment-to-moment relationship between hippocampal activity, replay in the cortex, and memory recall, which has previously been observed only in healthy younger adults,” Trelle said. “In fact, we could predict whether or not an individual would remember at a given moment in time based on the information carried in patterns of brain activity.”
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On average, the ability to remember declined with age, according to the findings. But regardless of age, stronger hippocampal activity and replay in the cortex was associated with better performing memory.
The research is part of the first steps for future probes into the Stanford Aging and Memory Study cohort’s research on older adults’ memory. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to identify people who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.