Age-related source memory impairments may be due, at least in part, to deficits in executive processes mediated by the PFC at both study and test. Behavioral work suggests that providing environmental support at encoding, such as directing attention toward item–source associations, may improve source memory and reduce age-related deficits in the recruitment of these executive processes. The present fMRI study investigated the effects of directed attention and aging on source memory encoding and retrieval. At study, participants were shown pictures of objects. They were either asked to attend to the objects and their color (source) or to their size. At test, participants determined if objects were seen before, and if so, whether they were the same color as previously. Behavioral results showed that direction of attention improved source memory for both groups; however, age-related deficits persisted. fMRI results revealed that, across groups, direction of attention facilitated medial temporal lobe-mediated contextual binding processes during study and attenuated right PFC postretrieval monitoring effects at test. However, persistent age-related source memory deficits may be related to increased recruitment of medial anterior PFC during encoding, indicative of self-referential processing, as well as underrecruitment of lateral anterior PFC-mediated relational processes. Taken together, this study suggests that, even when supported, older adults may fail to selectively encode goal-relevant contextual details supporting source memory performance.

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