A small study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) and published in the Journals of Gerontology suggests older adults with memory problems may “misremember.”
Penn State researchers discovered that people are more likely to rely on a type of memory called schematic memory, which allows them to remember the gist of an event, but not necessarily the details, as they age. This inability to remember details could lead to problems distinguishing an actual memory of something that did happen from a “false memory” – something the person thought happened, but didn’t.
This study involved 20 adults with an average age of 75 who looked at 26 pictures of common scenes for about 10 seconds each and were asked to remember as much as they could about the scenes. The study participants were then shown pictures of objects that either were in the scene; related to, but not actually in the scene; or not commonly associated with the scene, while the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor brain activity. They discovered processing false memories involved a different region of the brain’s hippocampus than processing actual memories.