Electrophysiological evidence for the effects of unitization on associative recognition memory in older adults

Zhiwei Zheng, Juan Li, Fengqiu Xiao, Lucas S. Broster, Yang Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Normal aging is associated with greater decline in associative memory relative to item memory due to impaired recollection. Familiarity may also contribute to associative recognition when stimuli are perceived as a 'unitized' representation. Given that familiarity is relatively preserved in older adults, we explored whether age-related associative memory deficits could be attenuated when associations were unitized (i.e., compounds) compared with those non-unitized (i.e., unrelated word pairs). Young and older adults performed an associative recognition task while electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded. Behavioral results showed that age differences were smaller for recognition of compounds than for unrelated word pairs. ERP results indicated that only compounds evoked an early frontal old/new effect in older adults. Moreover, the early frontal old/new effect was positively correlated with associative discrimination accuracy. These findings suggest that reduced age-related associative deficits under unitized condition may be associated with the presence of familiarity-based retrieval of compounds in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-71
Number of pages13
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
StatePublished - May 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Aging
  • Associative recognition
  • Event-related potentials
  • Familiarity
  • Unitization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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