Recent neuroimaging research shows that older adults exhibit recruitment, or increased activation on various cognitive tasks. The current study evaluated whether a similar pattern also occurs in semantic memory by evaluating age-related differences during recognition of Recent (since the 1990s) and Enduring (1950s to present) famous names. Fifteen healthy older and 15 healthy younger adults performed the name recognition task with a high and comparable degree of accuracy, although older adults had slower reaction time in response to Recent famous names. Event-related functional MRI showed extensive networks of activation in the two groups including posterior cingulate, right hippocampus, temporal lobe and left prefrontal regions. The Recent condition produced more extensive activation than the Enduring condition. Older adults had more extensive and greater magnitude of activation in 15 of 20 regions, particularly for the Recent condition (15 of 15; 7 of 15 also differed for Enduring); young adults did not show greater activation magnitude in any region. There were no group differences for non-famous names, indicating that age differences are task-specific. The results support and extend the existing literature to semantic memory tasks, indicating that older adult brains use functional recruitment to support task performance, even when task performance accuracy is high.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kristy_nielson/8/