Age does not increase rate of forgetting over weeks–neuroanatomical volumes and visual memory across the adult life-span

Fjell AM, Walhovd KB, Reinvang I, Lundervold A, Dale AM, Quinn BT, Makris N, Fischl B

J Int Neuropsychol Soc 2005 Jan;11(1):2-15

PMID: 15686603


The aim of the study was to investigate whether age affects visual memory retention across extended time intervals. In addition, we wanted to study how memory capabilities across different time intervals are related to the volume of different neuroanatomical structures (right hippocampus, right cortex, right white matter). One test of recognition (CVMT) and one test of recall (Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test) were administered, giving measures of immediate recognition/recall, 20-30 min recognition/recall, and recognition/recall at a mean of 75 days. Volumetric measures of right hemisphere hippocampus, cortex, and white matter were obtained through an automated labelling procedure of MRI recordings. Results did not demonstrate a steeper rate of forgetting for older participants when the retention intervals were increased, indicating that older people have spared ability to retain information in the long-term store. Differences in neuroanatomical volumes could explain up to 36% of the variance in memory performance, but were not significantly related to rates of forgetting. Cortical volume and hippocampal volume were in some cases independent as predictors of memory function. Generally, cortical volume was a better predictor of recognition memory than hippocampal volume, while the 2 structures did not differ in their predictive power of recall abilities. While neuroanatomical volumetric differences can explain some of the differences in memory functioning between younger and older persons, the hippocampus does not seem to be unique in this respect.