Aging impacts memory for perceptual, but not narrative, event details

Memory is well known to decline over the course of healthy aging. However, memory is not a monolith and draws from different kinds of representations. Historically, much of our understanding of age-related memory decline stems from recognition of isolated studied items. In contrast, real-life events are often remembered as narratives, and this kind of information is generally missed in typical recognition memory studies. Here, we designed a task to tax mnemonic discrimination of event details, directly contrasting perceptual and narrative memory. Older and younger adults watched an episode of a television show and later completed an old/new recognition test featuring targets, novel foils, and similar lures in narrative and perceptual domains. While we observed no age-related differences on basic recognition of repeated targets and novel foils, older adults showed a deficit in correctly rejecting perceptual, but not narrative, lures. These findings provide insight into the vulnerability of different memory domains in aging and may be useful in characterizing individuals at risk for pathological cognitive decline.
Funding Information
  • National Institute on Aging (1R03AG063224-01)
  • National Science Foundation (DGE-2139839, DGE-1745038)

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