Effects of Aging on Memory and Attention

Fergus I. M. Craik

in Mind and the Frontal Lobes

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199791569
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919215 | DOI:
Effects of Aging on Memory and Attention

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In this chapter I explore the similarities and differences between the effects of normal aging and the effects of frontal lobe damage on aspects of memory and attention. It is well established that normal aging is associated with some degree of frontal lobe atrophy, and is also established that older adults perform relatively poorly on certain tasks of ‘frontal lobe function.’ Indeed, West (1996) has proposed a ‘prefrontal theory of cognitive aging’ to underline the similarities. In my own work I have demonstrated that age-related losses tend to be greatest in memory tasks (such as free recall) that put largest demands on ‘self-initiated activities’ – generally taken to be attributable to frontal lobe function – and this point is illustrated in the chapter. The beneficial effects of context reinstatement are also illustrated. But the point is also made that other brain areas (such as medial-temporal regions) are also affected by aging; for example, older adults’ problems with associative memory may be attributable to the declining efficiency of this region.

Keywords: aging; frontal lobes; memory; attention; self-initiation; environmental support; processing resources

Chapter.  6748 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuropsychology

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