One of the main causes for age-related declines in working memory is a higher vulnerability to retroactive interference due to a reduced ability to suppress irrelevant information. However, the underlying neural correlates remain to be established. Magnetoencephalography was used to investigate differential neural patterns in young and older adults performing an interference-based memory task with two experimental conditions, interrupting and distracting, during successful recognition. Behaviorally, both types of retroactive interference significantly impaired accuracy at recognition more in older adults than in young adults with the latter exhibiting greater disruptions by interrupters. Magnetoencephalography revealed the presence of differential age-related neural patterns. Specifically, time-modulated activations in temporo-occipital and superior parietal regions were higher in young adults compared with older adults for the interrupting condition. These results suggest that age-related deficits in inhibitory mechanisms that increase vulnerability to retroactive interference may be associated with neural under-recruitments in a high-interference task.
aging;inhibitory mechanisms; magnetoencephalography; retroactive interference; working memory; memory; short term; older adult; young adult; emotional vulnerability