Successful physiological aging and episodic memory: A brain stimulation study

Rosa Manenti, Maria Cotelli, Carlo Miniussi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Functional neuroimaging studies have shown that younger adults tend to asymmetrically recruit specific regions of an hemisphere in an episodic memory task (Hemispheric Encoding Retrieval Asymmetry-HERA model). In older adults, this hemispheric asymmetry is generally reduced as suggested by the Hemispheric Asymmetry Reduction for OLDer Adults-HAROLD-model. Recent works suggest that while low-performing older adults do not show this reduced asymmetry, high-performing older adults counteract age-related neural decline through a plastic reorganization of cerebral networks that results in reduced functional asymmetry. However, the issue of whether high- and low-performing older adults show different degrees of asymmetry and the relevance of this process for counteracting aging have not been clarified.We used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to transiently interfere with the function of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during encoding or retrieval of associated and non-associated word pairs. A group of healthy older adults was studied during encoding and retrieval of word pairs. The subjects were divided in two subgroups according to their experimental performance (i.e., high- and low-performing). TMS effects on retrieval differed according to the subject's subgroup. In particular, the predominance of left vs. right DLPFC effects during encoding, predicted by the HERA model, was observed only in low-performing older adults, while the asymmetry reduction predicted by the HAROLD model was selectively shown for the high-performing group. The present data confirm that older adults with higher memory performance show less prefrontal asymmetry as an efficient strategy to counteract age-related memory decline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-158
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2011


  • Compensation strategy
  • Older
  • TMS
  • Words

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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