Older adults were tested on a verbal working memory task that used the item-recognition paradigm. On some trials of this task, response-conflict was created by presenting test-items that were familiar but were not members of a current set of items stored in memory. These items required a negative response, but their familiarity biased subjects toward a positive response. Younger subjects show an interference effect on such trials, and this interference is accompanied by activation of a region of left lateral prefrontal cortex. However, there has been no evidence that the activation in this region is causally related to the interference that the subjects exhibit. In the present study, we demonstrate that older adults show more behavioral interference than younger subjects on this task, and they also show no reliable activation at the same lateral prefrontal site. This leads to the conclusion that this prefrontal site is functionally involved in mediating resolution among conflicting responses or among conflicting representations in working memory.

This content is only available as a PDF.