Age-related differences in the neural substrates of cross-modal olfactory recognition memory: an fMRI investigation.
Impaired ability to remember what has gone before is one of the most distressing aspects of the aging process. Odor recognition memory is particularly vulnerable to the effects of aging, yet the underlying neural substrate is unknown. This study investigated the neural substrate of cross-modal olfactory recognition memory in young and older adults using fMRI. Participants were presented with 16 familiar odors immediately before entering the scanner, and were then tested for retrieval with words, either names of odors previously presented (targets) or names of new odors (foils), while being scanned at 3 T. Activation was reduced in the old subjects, both in regions involved in episodic memory retrieval and in regions involved in olfactory processing. Greater activation in the cerebellum of older adults was observed, suggesting increased response to attentional demands or compensatory mechanisms. Unlike in a number of studies in other sensory modalities, no increase in activation in frontal areas in older adults was observed during retrieval.