Phoebe Jordan and Emma Palitz

Mentor: Anjali Thapar

Over the past few decades, numerous studies have found age-related deficits in episodic memory, such that older adults perform worse on memory tasks that require access to detailed contextual information compared to younger adults. Few studies, however, have examined the role that individual differences in frontal lobe (FL) and medial-temporal lobe (MTL) functioning play in these deficits. Some have shown, for example, that there is substantial variability in younger adults’ FL and MTL functioning as well, and thus young adults may not perform equally well on memory tasks requiring frontal lobe involvement. The current study aims to examine the role of individual differences in deficits in episodic memory performance in 50-75 young adults (ages 18-30). This will be accomplished by using a neuropsychological battery designed to assess FL and MTL functioning as well as behavioral measures and electrophysiological correlates of memory performance.

An EEG cap will be used to measure event-related potentials (ERPs) at the time of first stimulus presentation during a recognition memory task. Both the ERPs and the behavioral data from the memory task (accuracy) will be subsequently analyzed to see: a) if there are reliable differences in ERPs for items that were subsequently remembered vs. forgotten; and b) if there are reliable between-group differences in recognition memory performance between high and low functioning younger adults (as characterized by the initial neuropsychological battery). The use of encoding ERPs is particularly relevant because most ERP studies of age-related differences to date have focused on retrieval-phase ERPs, with the few existing studies of encoding phases showing differential results. The current study, therefore, will provide valuable insight into the timing and placement of neural signatures of recognition memory at the time of initial stimulus presentation.