Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Young and older adults are more likely to remember emotional information than neutral information. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging study examined the neural processes supporting young (ages 18–35) and older (ages 62–79) adults' successful encoding of positive, negative, and neutral objects (e.g., a sundae, a grenade, a canoe). The results revealed general preservation of the emotional memory network across the age groups. Both groups recruited the amygdala and the orbito-frontal cortex during the successful encoding of positive and negative information. Both ages also showed valence-specific recruitment: right fusiform activity was greatest during the successful encoding of negative information, whereas left prefrontal and temporal activity was greatest during the successful encoding of positive information. These valence-specific processes are consistent with behavioral evidence that negative information is processed with perceptual detail, whereas positive information is processed at a conceptual or schematic level. The only age differences in emotional memory emerged during the successful encoding of positive items: Older adults showed more activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and along the cingulate gyrus than young adults. Because these regions often are associated with self-referential processing, these results suggest that older adults' mnemonic boost for positive information may stem from an increased tendency to process this information in relation to themselves.