Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Integr. Neurosci., 30 May 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnint.2013.00037

Age-related similarities and differences in brain activity underlying reversal learning

  • 1Center for Vital Longevity, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA
  • 2Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

The ability to update associative memory is an important aspect of episodic memory and a critical skill for social adaptation. Previous research with younger adults suggests that emotional arousal alters brain mechanisms underlying memory updating; however, it is unclear whether this applies to older adults. Given that the ability to update associative information declines with age, it is important to understand how emotion modulates the brain processes underlying memory updating in older adults. The current study investigated this question using reversal learning tasks, where younger and older participants (age ranges 19–35 and 61–78, respectively) learn a stimulus–outcome association and then update their response when contingencies change. We found that younger and older adults showed similar patterns of activation in the frontopolar OFC and the amygdala during emotional reversal learning. In contrast, when reversal learning did not involve emotion, older adults showed greater parietal cortex activity than did younger adults. Thus, younger and older adults show more similarities in brain activity during memory updating involving emotional stimuli than during memory updating not involving emotional stimuli.

Keywords: aging, emotion, memory updating, functional MRI, reversal learning, associative memory

Citation: Nashiro K, Sakaki M, Nga L and Mather M (2013) Age-related similarities and differences in brain activity underlying reversal learning. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 7:37. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2013.00037

Received: 29 January 2013; Accepted: 29 April 2013;
Published online: 30 May 2013.

Edited by:

Florin Dolcos, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Reviewed by:

Barry Setlow, University of Florida, USA
Maureen Ritchey, University of California, Davis, USA
Myra Fernandes, University of Waterloo, Canada

Copyright © 2013 Nashiro, Sakaki, Nga and Mather. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Kaoru Nashiro, Center for Vital Longevity, University of Texas, 1600 Viceroy Drive Suite 800, Dallas, TX 75235, Dallas, USA. e-mail: kaoru.nashiro@utdallas.edu

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