Old age could impair memory by disrupting learning strategies used by younger individuals. We tested this possibility by manipulating the ability to use visual-exploration strategies during learning. Subjects controlled visual exploration during active learning, thus permitting the use of strategies, whereas strategies were limited during passive learning via predetermined exploration patterns. Performance on tests of object recognition and object-location recall was matched for younger and older subjects for objects studied passively, when learning strategies were restricted. Active learning improved object recognition similarly for younger and older subjects. However, active learning improved object-location recall for younger subjects, but not older subjects. Exploration patterns were used to identify a learning strategy involving repeat viewing. Older subjects used this strategy less frequently and it provided less memory benefit compared to younger subjects. In previous experiments, we linked hippocampal-prefrontal co-activation to improvements in object-location recall from active learning and to the exploration strategy. Collectively, these findings suggest that age-related memory problems result partly from impaired strategies during learning, potentially due to reduced hippocampal-prefrontal co-engagement.
- Active learning
- Age-related memory impairment
- Prefrontal cortex
- Vicarious trial-and-error behavior
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience