Theta oscillations show impaired interference detection in older adults during selective memory retrieval

Catarina Sanches Ferreira, Maria J Maraver, Simon Hanslmayr, Teresa Bajo

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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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 age-related 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9977
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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