The Influence of Aging on the Neural Correlates of Judgments of Learning
Metamemory monitoring refers to the awareness of one’s own knowledge and memory abilities. A common way to measure monitoring is to have individuals predict their current learning state via metamemory judgments such as judgments of learning (JOLs). JOLs are subjective ratings regarding whether information will be remembered later. Prior research in young adults (YAs) suggests that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is involved in making JOLs. Although older adults (OAs) often show spared monitoring via JOLs, they might be able to maintain this ability by recruiting additional brain regions to compensate for alterations in the mPFC. Alternatively, OAs might have preserved monitoring because their neural correlates remain intact. YA and OA participants made JOLs on a 1-3 scale (Likely, Maybe, Unlikely) after viewing picture pairs during Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scanning. We tested the extent that brain activity differed in OAs compared to YAs in the mPFC using region of interest analyses in prefrontal brain regions, which are often invoked as key sites for neural compensation. Behaviorally, no age differences were found, consistent with the sparing of metamemory in older age. However, OAs showed increased brain activity when compared to YAs for the accurate > inaccurate and maybe > inaccurate contrasts in the middle frontal gyrus. This supports the notion that additional regions besides the mPFC are recruited by OAs when making encoding-based metamemory judgments, which could be indicative of compensatory mechanisms.