Benefit from retrieval practice is linked to temporal and frontal activity in healthy young and older humans

Catherine-Noémie Alexandrina Guran, Lorena Deuker, Martin Göttlich, Nikolai Axmacher, Nico Bunzeck


Retrieval practice improves retention of information in long-term memory more than restudy, but the underlying neural mechanisms of this "retrieval practice effect" (RPE) remain poorly understood. Therefore, we investigated the behavioral and neural differences between previously retrieved versus restudied items at final retrieval. Thirty younger (20-30 years old) and twenty-five older (50+ years old) adults learned familiar and new picture stimuli either through retrieval or restudy. At final recognition, hemodynamic activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Behaviorally, younger and older adults showed similar benefits of retrieval practice, with higher recollection, but unchanged familiarity rates. In a univariate analysis of the fMRI data, activation in medial prefrontal cortex and left temporal regions correlated with an individual's amount of behavioral benefit from retrieval practice, irrespective of age. Compatible with this observation, in a multivariate representational similarity analysis (RSA), retrieval practice led to an increase in pattern similarity for retested items in a priori defined regions of interest, including the medial temporal lobe, as well as prefrontal and parietal cortex. Our findings demonstrate that retrieval practice leads to enhanced long-term memories in younger and older adults alike, and this effect may be driven by fast consolidation processes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCerebral cortex communications
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)tgac009
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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