Alpha modulation in younger and older adults during distracted encoding

Syanah C. Wynn, Erika Nyhus, Ole Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


o successfully encode information into long‐term memory, we need top‐down control to focus our attention on target stimuli. This attentional focus is achieved by the modulation of sensory neuronal excitability through alpha power. Failure to modulate alpha power and to inhibit distracting information has been reported in older adults during attention and working memory tasks. Given that alpha power during encoding can predict subsequent memory performance, aberrant oscillatory modulations might play a role in age‐related memory deficits. However, it is unknown whether there are age‐related differences in memory performance or alpha modulation when encoding targets with distraction. Here we show that both older and younger adults are able to encode targets paired with distractors and that the level of alpha power modulation during encoding predicted recognition success. Even though older adults showed signs of higher distractibility, this did not harm their episodic memory for target information. Also, we demonstrate that older adults only modulated alpha power during high distraction, both by enhancing target processing and inhibiting distractor processing. These results indicate that both younger and older adults are able to employ the same inhibitory control mechanisms successfully, but that older adults fail to call upon these when distraction is minimal. The findings of this study give us more insight into the mechanisms involved in memory encoding across the lifespan.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Dec 2020


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