Your poor aging episodic memory.

Have you ever wondered why you remember an event differently than a friend who was at the same even as you? You tell a story of an event that you and your friend went to together and as you’re telling a story you one of your other friends, the friend you went with cuts in and says that wasn’t how it happened and starts to explain it how they believed it went. You wonder why they are making up a story as well as they are wondering why you are making up the story. This is due to episodic memory. Episodic memory is when you have an experience in a time of your life that someone may also have had and experience f that is different that you are later able to recall as part of our long-term memory. While you age, being able to recall these memories isn’t too hard, but you may not remember everything. You also have a harder time forming new episodic memories as you age.

When we age we know a lot of things are hard on us whether it be our legs, joints, or memories. We know there are a lot of mental diagnoses that are given as we age such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. One study researched looked at high performance and low performance people to see how their episodic memory was, relative to their IQ, using the standard classification method. Dockree, Brennan, O’Sullivan, Robertson & Redmond (2015), stated “…some individuals showing progressive decline with advancing age and others showing preservation of this essential cognitive ability.” They are not saying that all people have a decline in episodic memory, but they do have some people that do. This is how they separate them into high performance and low performance brain functions. They resulted that the high performance people “accumulate memorial evidence for learned information more effectively, show compensatory neural activity during encoding and preserved neural mechanisms at retrieval” (Dockree, et. al. 2015). Most participants in the study were able to gather memories with no problem. They were able to compensate the parts of the memory that was missing with something logical that would fit in and fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, the lower performance group had a harder time with episodic memories.

In another article about episodic memory, they used resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) to look at episodic memory. Fjell, Sneve, Grydeland, Storsve, DeLange & Amlien (2015) cited:

Tambini et. al. (2010) found enhanced functional connectivity (FC) between the hippocampus and a portion of the lateral occipital complex during rest following a task with high subsequent memory, an effect that was not seen during a task with poor sub- sequent memory. Additionally, the magnitude of the hippocampal- occipital correlation during post-task rest predicted later associative memory.

When we do tasks that we enjoy, we are able to better recall them. This is all involved in the hippocampus, we are able to filter what information is relevant and what we want to remember and what we are able to forget. The neurons fire information that we need in order for our cortex to be able to hold our memories. As we get older, the firing rate of neurons is much slower and we have a harder time in retaining and recalling information.






Works Cited


Dockree, P. M., Brennan, S., O’Sullivan, M., Robertson, I. H., Redmond G.

O’Connell, Characterizing neural signatures of successful aging: Electrophysiological

correlates of preserved episodic memory in older age, Brain and Cognition, Volume

97, July 2015, Pages 40-50, ISSN 0278-2626,



Fjell, A. M., Sneve, M. H., Grydeland, H., Storsve, A. B., de Lange, A. G., Amlien, I. K., . . .

Walhovd, K. B. (2015). Functional connectivity change across multiple cortical

networks relates to episodic memory changes in aging. Neurobiology of Aging,



2 thoughts on “Your poor aging episodic memory.

  1. Xueqi Guo

    Your story about the different memories of two people who came to an event together is

    quite interesting. It is true that as we age our memory could be influenced or even lose. It

    makes sense that when we get older, our physical condition such as neuron activity would

    be slower, as you stated. The slower neural firing rate would require more time to recall

    memories. However, instead of simply focusing on your illustration about physical

    considerations (IQ, neuron firing rate, etc.) of the differed-memories example you

    presented, there are some other thoughts came to my mind.

    In my opinion, there could be many other reasons which are possible explanations for the

    differed-memories example. Remember the the penny experiment in lesson 8? Nickerson

    and Adams (1979) required 25 people to find the real penny from 12 pennies (with 11

    fake ones), but only 4/25 people actually found the real one (Pennsylvania State University,

    Lesson 8, 2015, pp3). Although people see pennies almost every day when they use them,

    they do not really focus on details. In the case of the differed-memories example you

    presented, the two people might primarily focus on different details. For example, if two

    women go to a shopping mall together, with one woman likes make-ups and the other

    likes dresses, they would probably not know much about anything else excepting their

    own liked stuff. In other words, after the shopping day ends, the make-up woman would

    probably not know much about dresses and the dress woman would not know about

    make-up. The two people have different memory primirily because they focued on

    different things. Of course, this phenomenon would not be the whole explanation. It is

    only the start of different memories.

    After the shopping day ends, the two women (let’s call them Ann and Bee) went home.

    Ann (who likes make-up) is living with a roomate; the roomate knows that Bee (who likes

    dresses) likes a dress store named “CC,” so she asks “Did you guys went to the dress

    store CC and have fun today?” Ann answered “Yes! Today is so much fun!” Though in fact

    the dress store they went was not CC. At that time, Ann’s memory is misled and she may

    not even notice it! This effect is called “misinformation effect” and is showed in the

    experiement of Loftus, Miller and Burns (1978). They asked a group of samples to see a

    group of pictures describing that a car moves approach to a stop sign, turns direction at

    a corner and get accident. Then the samples were divided into two groups. One was

    asked “Did you see the car approaching to stop sign? (correct question)” and the other

    was asked “Did you see the car approaching the yield sign? (misleading question).” After

    the questions, the samples were required to choose a similar image to the image they

    saw (Pennsylvania State University, Lesson 9, 2015, pp8). The result shows that the group

    which was asked correct question had 75% people correct and the group which was

    asked misleading question had only 40% people correct. This experiment shows the

    power of misleading cues. Similar to this effect, the example you presented (two people

    went to an event together but later showed different memories) could have the same

    problem of being misled. After the event, the two people could experience different cues

    (one is misled and the other is right; or both are misled) and hence have different

    memories about the event.

    Besides, false memory also has large power over people’s memory. People could even

    “remember” something that did not happen at all. At the other night after the shopping

    day, Ann and her roomate talks about that day again. They talks about how Ann and Bee

    went to a pretty make-up counter, how they saw a beautiful lady there, and how they ate

    many kinds of delicious food. Then the roomate asks:”Wait, isn’t it the place you told me

    where has tasty chicken?” “Chicken?” Ann tried to recall. “Yes. You told me you and Bee

    ordered a table of food with a really tasty chicken. Oh! And you guys also had delicious

    cakes there!” All the information was right, excepting the fact that Ann and Bee went to

    another restaurant this time. They had ordered a table of food before with chicken, but

    this time they ordered no chicken. However, the other correct information leads Ann’s

    memory to false memory. She suddenly “remembers” that she ordered chicken in the

    shopping day (which is actually wrong). This is how easy we create false memory. Hyman,

    Husband and Billings (1995) set an experiment for false memory. They asked college

    students five questions with four truely-happened things (know from their family

    members) and one thing did not happen (Pennsylvania State University, Lesson 9, 2015,

    pp9). The result showed that 25% people made up false memory. They “remember”

    things did not happen. This could be another explanation of the different-memories

    example you presented. Although the two people went to the same event, they focused

    different details, experienced different things, and probably were misled or got false

    memories. Therefore, episodic memories are not very trustful from the beginning.

    As for the relationship between memory and age in your illustration (lower neuron firing

    rate for elders and different IQ), I agree with them. As it is stated above, I believe that

    physical factors could influence a person’s memory as they get older. However, the

    physical functions could be influenced by many factors. One of them is overeating.

    Researchers have found that people who eat more calories a day would have higher risk

    to have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), especially for elders (Sifferlin, 2012). This is a

    type of memory loss which would influence people’s memory and thinking, but would not

    influence everyday life. Although the reason why the calory amount would affect memory

    is unknown, but there is an assumption that large amount of calories may stimulate stress

    proteins in the brain. These stress proteins could lead to memory loss.

    In general, memories are tricky. People could get false memory sometimes and would

    even lose them when getting older. One way to prevent memory loss is to intake healthy

    food and proper amount of calories, as overeating may lead to severe memory loss.


    Pennsylvania State University. (2015). Encoding in LTM. Lesson 8 : Long-Term Memory:

    Encoding and Retrieval. pp.3. Retrieved from

    Pennsylvania State University. (2015). Misinformation Effect. Lesson 9: Everyday Memory

    and Memory Errors. pp.8. Retrieved from

    Pennsylvania State University. (2015). False Memories. Lesson 9: Everyday Memory and

    Memory Errors. pp.9. Retrieved from

    Sifferlin, A. (2012). Study: Overeating May Double the Risk of Memory Loss. TIME.

    Retrieved from


  2. jmr6242

    This is an enjoyable consideration of how episodic memory can degrade over time. I think it’s fascinating that, as you state, when we enjoy things more, it’s correlative to how well we remember the events in our episodic memory.
    As I read your post, I found myself contemplating, wondering if there were a correlation between episodic and semantic memory, as all semantic memory was at one time or another episodic (PSU, 2015). The fact that fMRI has located differing portions of the brain as activated when processing these different types of memory suggests differences in the development of the two with age, but the fact the one has always at some point stemmed from the other suggests, all else equal, that there might be a possible connection and subsequent parallel development.
    The facts show that development largely moves in reverse, until a subject experiences the onset of a memory-based issue that requires professional attention. According to an infographic published by the APA, semantic memory, or the ability to recall knowledge not based on any one episodic experience, actually improves somewhat over time (APA). In the absence of conditions like Alzheimer’s or the lingering effects of a stroke or other brain disorder, there is in fact a correlation between the decline of episodic memory and the state of semantic memory, but it is negative, and strongly so.
    Overall, the negative correlation between episodic and semantic is indicative of how the brain processes and stores information by priority. From a less scientific viewpoint, the question the bears asking is: “What would you rather forget? Your functional memory and understanding/outlook on the world, or specific stories/portions of them from the mind?”

    Works Cited
    American Psychological Association. “Memory and Aging.” Retrieved from
    Penn State University. (2015). “Lesson 6: Long Term Memory: Structure.” Retrieved from

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