Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
This study examined how aging affects the spatial patterns of repetition effects associated with perceptual priming of unfamiliar visual objects. Healthy young (n = 14) and elderly adults (n = 13) viewed four repetitions of structurally possible and impossible figures while being scanned with blood oxygenation level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging. Although explicit recognition memory for the figures was reduced in the elder subjects, repetition priming did not differ across the two age groups. Using multivariate linear modeling, we found that the spatial networks of regions that demonstrated repetition-related increases and decreases in activity were identical in both age groups, although there was a trend for smaller magnitude repetition effects in these networks in the elder adults for objects that had been repeated thrice. Furthermore, repetition-related reductions in activity in the left inferior frontal cortex for possible objects correlated with repetition-related facilitation in reaction time across both young and elder subjects. Repetition-related increases of an initially negative response were observed for both object types in both age groups in parts of the default network, suggesting that less attention was required for processing repeated stimuli. These findings extend prior studies using verbal and semantic picture priming tasks and support the view that perceptual repetition priming remains intact in later adulthood because the same spatial networks of regions continue to show repetition-related neural plasticity across the adult life span.