Neuroimaging findings suggest that the lateralization of prefrontal cortex activation associated with episodic memory performance is reduced by aging. It is still a matter of debate whether this loss of asymmetry during encoding and retrieval reflects compensatory mechanisms or de-differentiation processes. We addressed this issue by the transient interference produced by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which directly assesses causal relationships between performance and stimulated regions. We compared the effects of rTMS (a rapid-rate train occurring simultaneously to the presentation of memoranda) applied to the left or right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) on visuospatial recognition memory in 66 healthy subjects divided in two classes of age (50 years). In young subjects, rTMS of the right DLPFC interfered with retrieval more than left DLPFC stimulation. The asymmetry of the effect progressively vanished with aging, as indicated by bilateral interference effects on recognition performance. Conversely, the predominance of left DLPFC effect during encoding was not abolished in elders, thus probing its causal role for encoding along the life span. Findings confirm that the neural correlates of retrieval modify along aging, suggesting that the bilateral engagement of the DLPFC has a compensatory role on the elders' episodic memory performance.
- Hippocampal formation
- Long-term memory
- Prefrontal cortex
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas