Abstract

With progressing age, the ability to recollect personal events declines, whereas familiarity-based memory remains relatively intact. It has been hypothesized that age-related hippocampal atrophy may contribute to this pattern because of its critical role for recollection in younger humans and after acute injury. Here, we show that hippocampal volume loss in healthy older persons correlates with gray matter loss (estimated with voxel-based morphometry) of the entire limbic system and shows no correlation with an electrophysiological (event-related potential [ERP]) index of recollection. Instead, it covaries with more substantial and less specific electrophysiological changes of stimulus processing. Age-related changes in another complementary structural measure, hippocampal diffusion, on the other hand, seemed to be more regionally selective and showed the expected correlation with the ERP index of recollection. Thus, hippocampal atrophy in older persons accompanies limbic atrophy, and its functional impact on memory is more fundamental than merely affecting recollection.

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