Theta oscillations show impaired interference detection in older adults during selective memory retrieval
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AuthorFerreira, Catarina S.; Maraver Romero, María Jesús; Hanslmayr, Simon; Bajo Molina, María Teresa
Ferreira, C. S., Maraver, M. J., Hanslmayr, S., & Bajo, T. (2019). Theta oscillations show impaired interference detection in older adults during selective memory retrieval. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-11.
SponsorshipThis research was supported by the doctoral research grants AP2009-2215 to C.S.F. and BES-2013-066842 to M.J.M.; by grants PSI2012-33625; PSI2015-65502-C2-1-P from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competiveness, and by the Economic Council of the Andalusian Government P08-HUM-03600-Feder and P12-CTS-2369-Feder to T.B. S.H. is supported by grants from the European Research Council (grant agreement Nº647954), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC grant agreement NºES/R010072/1), and the Wolfson Society and Royal Society.
Seemingly effortless tasks, such as recognizing faces and retrieving names, become harder as we age. Such difficulties may be due to the competition generated in memory by irrelevant information that comes to mind when trying to recall a specific face or name. It is unknown, however, whether agerelated struggles in retrieving these representations stem from an inability to detect competition in the first place, or from being unable to suppress competing information once interference is detected. To investigate this, we used the retrieval practice paradigm, shown to elicit memory interference, while recording electrophysiological activity in young and older adults. In two experiments, young participants showed Retrieval-Induced Forgetting (RIF), reflecting the suppression of competing information, whereas older adults did not. Neurally, mid-frontal theta power (~4–8 Hz) during the first retrieval cycle, a proxy for interference detection, increased in young compared to older adults, indicating older adults were less capable of detecting interference. Moreover, while theta power was reduced across practice cycles in younger adults, a measure of interference resolution, older adults did not show such a reduction. Thus, in contrast with younger adults, the lack of an early interference detection signal rendered older adults unable to recruit memory selection mechanisms, eliminating RIF.