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Amy Overman and two alumnae publish innovative research on memory in older adults

Peer-reviewed scientific study by Overman and co-authors shows that age differences in memory can depend on the way that visual information is presented.

Amy Overman, and Abby Steinsiek '15 and Luisa Cesar '15, both psychology graduates of Elon College, the College of Arts & Sciences, conducted empirical research on memory that was recently published in Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, which is a leading peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Amy Overman, associate professor of psychology, a faculty member in the neuroscience program and an associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning

The article, "Same face, same place, different memory: manner of presentation modulates the associative deficit in older adults" describes how a simple change in the way visual information is presented to older adults can result in different memory performance relative to young adults. 

This line of research in Overman's lab is focused on associative memory — the ability to link together multiple pieces of information — in young and older adults. The study used a novel design that improved on prior research by using the same types of stimuli to create different types of associations. Specifically, participants in the study were asked to remember combinations of faces and scenes that were presented in one of two ways: as item-item pairs, or as item-context pairs. In the item-item pairs, the faces and scenes were shown in a manner that was similar to looking at two photographs side-by-side. In the item-context pairs, faces and scenes were shown in a manner that presented the scene as a background to the face.

In addition to its novel design, the study is the first to test predictions about older adult memory performance that are based on the "binding of item and context" (BIC) model (Diana, Yonelinas, & Ranganath, 2007), which is a theory of how associative memory is supported by specific regions within the medial temporal lobe of the brain. The study also challenges the notion that age-related deficits in associative memory apply equally to all aspects of associative processing. 

This project is part of Overman's ongoing research into the cognitive and neural mechanisms of memory. Overman was awarded a $343,866 grant from the National Institutes of Health. Overman's research has the potential to lead to improvements in older adult memory function and quality of life through the development of intervention strategies for memory, and by helping to dissociate normal aging from early signs of dementia. 

Overman, Steinsiek and Cesar also collaborated on the study with Nancy Dennis and John McCormick-Huhn at Penn State University.

Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition (ANC) "publish[es] research on both the normal and dysfunctional aspects of cognitive development in adulthood and aging, and (b) promote[s] the integration of theories, methods, and research findings between the fields of cognitive gerontology and neuropsychology." ANC has an Impact Factor of 1.764, according to Journal Citation Reports. The article is currently published online, and will appear in the print journal within the next few months. 

Psychology Department,
1/30/2018 10:45 PM