ERP correlates of item recognition memory: Effects of age and performance

David A. Wolk, N. Mandu Sen, Hyemi Chong, Jenna L. Riis, Scott M. McGinnis, Phillip J. Holcomb, Kirk R. Daffner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Decline in episodic memory is a common feature of healthy aging. Event-related potential (ERP) studies in young adults have consistently reported several modulations thought to index memory retrieval processes, but relatively limited work has explored the impact of aging on them. Further, work with functional imaging has demonstrated differential neural recruitment in elderly subjects depending on their level of cognitive performance which may reflect compensatory or, alternatively, inefficient processing. In the present study we examined the effect of aging and level of performance on both early (FN400, LPC) and later [late frontal effect (LFE)] ERP indices of recognition memory. We found that the FN400 and LPC were absent or attenuated in the older group relative to young adults, but that the LFE was actually increased, analogous to findings in the functional imaging literature. Additionally, the latter effect was most prominent in the poorer performing older participants. These findings suggest that weak memory retrieval supported by earlier ERP modulations, may lead to an enhanced LFE in the service of additional retrieval attempts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-231
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Jan 23 2009


  • Aging
  • Event-related potential
  • FN400
  • LPC
  • Late frontal effect
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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