Mental experiences involve active information from various sources (perceptions, imaginations, inferences, memories, emotions). Because there is overlap in the features arising from different sources and the processes that encode, revive, and evaluate features with respect to their source are not perfect, misattributions can occur (perceptual illusions, memory distortions, false memories, confabulations). Our goal is understanding the cognitive processes and conditions that account for true and false episodic (autobiographical) memories: source memory processes that encode features and associate (bind) them into complex memories, and that revive and evaluate them later (i.e., as we make attributions).Our research is guided by the Source Monitoring Framework (SMF), which identifies cognitive processes, types of information (e.g., features), and associated brain correlates that together serve normal source memory and provides a focus for investigating how source memory might be impaired. In particular, our research program is directed at understanding how source monitoring processes are affected by normal aging. Evidence from brain damaged patients and from neuroimaging suggests that prefrontal cortex (PFC) is critical for encoding, reviving, and evaluating memories, and that a critical function of PFC is to modulate activity in other brain regions (e.g., hippocampus, posterior representational areas) involved in memory. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that age-related changes in function in PFC contribute to age-related declines in episodic memory. Using cognitive behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods, the proposed project has three main goals: (1) To further characterize age-related differences in the cognitive processes subserving source memory, that is, those processes that affect the quality of encoding, revival, and evaluation of episodic memories;(2) To identify distinct neural bases of specific cognitive functions important for source memory, how they interact, and how they are affected by aging;(3) To further clarify the relation, at both cognitive and neural levels, between objective and subjective measures of source memory and how they change with age.

Public Health Relevance

Among the consequences of normal aging, one of the most distressing is decline in memory. The associated loss of productivity, physical health, and sense of well-being will create an increasing number of critical economic and public health issues as the US population grows disproportionately older.This proposal is directed at understanding the neural mechanisms that underlie changes in memory function with age.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award (R37)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (NSS)
Program Officer
Wagster, Molly V
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Yale University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
New Haven
United States
Zip Code
Sugimori, Eriko; Mitchell, Karen J; Raye, Carol L et al. (2014) Brain mechanisms underlying reality monitoring for heard and imagined words. Psychol Sci 25:403-13
Kim, Kyungmi; Johnson, Marcia K (2014) Extended self: spontaneous activation of medial prefrontal cortex by objects that are 'mine'. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 9:1006-12
Ebner, Natalie C; Johnson, Matthew R; Rieckmann, Anna et al. (2013) Processing own-age vs. other-age faces: neuro-behavioral correlates and effects of emotion. Neuroimage 78:363-71
Mitchell, Karen J; Ankudowich, Elizabeth; Durbin, Kelly A et al. (2013) Age-related differences in agenda-driven monitoring of format and task information. Neuropsychologia 51:2427-41
Kim, Kyungmi; Johnson, Marcia K (2012) Extended self: medial prefrontal activity during transient association of self and objects. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 7:199-207
Ebner, Natalie C; Gluth, Sebastian; Johnson, Matthew R et al. (2011) Medial prefrontal cortex activity when thinking about others depends on their age. Neurocase 17:260-9
Ebner, Natalie C; He, Yi; Fichtenholtz, Harlan M et al. (2011) Electrophysiological correlates of processing faces of younger and older individuals. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 6:526-35
Zaragoza, Maria S; Mitchell, Karen J; Payment, Kristie et al. (2011) False Memories for Suggestions: The Impact of Conceptual Elaboration. J Mem Lang 64:18-31
He, Yi; Ebner, Natalie C; Johnson, Marcia K (2011) WHAT PREDICTS THE OWN-AGE BIAS IN FACE RECOGNITION MEMORY? Soc Cogn 29:97-109
Ebner, Natalie C; He, Yi; Johnson, Marcia K (2011) Age and emotion affect how we look at a face: visual scan patterns differ for own-age versus other-age emotional faces. Cogn Emot 25:983-97

Showing the most recent 10 out of 67 publications