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  • Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, Volume 18, Issue 3
  • May 2012, pp. 402-413

Compensatory Brain Activity during Encoding among Older Adults with Better Recognition Memory for Face-Name Pairs: An Integrative Functional, Structural, and Perfusion Imaging Study

  • Katherine J. Bangen (a1), Allison R. Kaup (a2), Heline Mirzakhanian (a1), Christina E. Wierenga (a1) (a3), Dilip V. Jeste (a1) (a4) and Lisa T. Eyler (a1) (a4) (a5)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 20 March 2012

Many neuroimaging studies interpret the commonly reported findings of age-related increases in frontal response and/or increased bilateral activation as suggestive of compensatory neural recruitment. However, it is often unclear whether differences are due to compensation or reflective of other cognitive or physiological processes. This study aimed to determine whether there are compensatory age-related changes in brain systems supporting successful associative encoding while taking into account potentially confounding factors including age-related differences in task performance, atrophy, and resting perfusion. Brain response during encoding of face-name pairs was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging in 10 older and nine young adults and was correlated with memory performance. During successful encoding, older adults demonstrated increased frontal and decreased occipital activity as well as greater bilateral involvement relative to the young. Findings remained significant after controlling for age-related cortical atrophy and hypoperfusion. Among the older adults, greater response was associated with better memory performance. Cognitive aging may involve recruitment of compensatory mechanisms to improve performance or prevent impairment. Results extend previous findings by suggesting that age-related alterations in activation cannot be attributed to the commonly observed findings of poorer task performance, reduced resting perfusion, or cortical atrophy among older adults. (JINS, 2012, 18, 402–413)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Katherine J. Bangen, 9500 Gilman Drive # 9151B, La Jolla, CA 92093-9151B, E-mail:
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