Aging Effects on Visual Memory Resolution

An fMRI Study of Complex Scene Memory in Younger and Older Adults
2008 Seed Grant
David Gallo, Ph.D.
University of Chicago

Dr. David Gallo’s experiments will advance our understanding of aging effects on visual memory resolution, a topic with considerable value to an aging society.  Visual memories are known to depend on the integrity of medial temporal and posterior cortical areas.  Not coincidentally, functional activity in these regions also tends to be impaired in the preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease (when people begin to report abnormal memory lapses, but have not yet been diagnosed with potential disease).  Understanding the effects of healthy aging on the functional response of these regions, independent from potentially confounding psychological variables, therefore has important health implications.  By developing an fMRI technique to objectively measure visual memory resolution in younger and older adults, this study will lay the foundation for future fMRI studies of individual differences in visual memory resolution.  Individual differences in visual memory details, and the degree of correspondence with subjectively reports, could serve as a potential marker for the transition between healthy aging and the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  In this way and others, knowledge of the functional and neural consequences of healthy aging on memory is critical for our understanding of disease-related memory impairments.