Some prior research has found that older adults are more susceptible to proactive interference than young adults. The current study investigated whether age-related deficits in pFC-mediated cognitive control processes that act to detect and resolve interference underlie increased susceptibility to proactive interference in an associative memory task. Young and older adults were scanned while tasked with remembering which associate (face or scene) objects were paired with most recently during study, under conditions of high, low, or no proactive interference. After scanning, participants' memory was tested for varying levels of episodic detail about the pairings (i.e., target category vs. specific target category vs. specific target associate). Young and older adults were similarly susceptible to proactive interference. Memory for both the general target category and the specific target associate worsened as the level of proactive interference increased, with no robust age differences. For both young and older adults, the left ventrolateral pFC, which has been indicated in controlled retrieval of goal-relevant conceptual representations, was sensitive to increasing levels of interference during encoding but was insensitive to associative memory accuracy. Consistent with the Compensation-Related Utilization of Neural Circuits Hypothesis model of cognitive aging, the ventromedial pFC, which is involved in the monitoring of internally generated information, was recruited more by older than young adults to support the successful retrieval of target–object pairs at lower levels of proactive interference. Collectively, these results suggest that some older adults are able to engage in the cognitive control processes necessary to resolve proactive interference to the same extent as young adults.

You do not currently have access to this content.