Otto Hahn Research Group on Associative Memory in Old Age

The decline of cognitive functioning in old age has a negative impact on individuals’ well-being and independence (Park et al., 2002). Particular attention has been devoted to episodic memory (Tulving, 1972), the conscious remembrance of events that are situated in time and place. Older adults display specific difficulties in remembering associative information (such as combining a face and a name; e.g., Old & Naveh-Benjamin, 2008). This associative deficit might be one reason why older adults typically gain less from memory training than younger adults and children (e.g., Brehmer et al., 2007), as such procedures often require the binding together of two elements into a coherent representation. In addition to mean age differences, large inter-individual differences in binding performance have been observed in late life. Although some older adults have severe problems in remembering associated information, others show quite proficient performance (e.g., Lövdén et al., 2012; Nyberg et al., 2003).

The main research goal of this OHG project was to further our knowledge regarding neural correlates of inter-individual differences in associative memory in old age. Why are some older adults quite good at remembering associative information while others are not? We were specifically interested in structural and functional brain correlates and genetic markers accounting for inter-individual differences in associative memory functioning.

In 2008, Yvonne Brehmer received the Max Planck Society's Otto Hahn Medal for outstanding scientific achievements. She was also awarded one of three Otto Hahn Groups, which are funded by the Max Planck Society and enable junior scientists to establish their own research group after a period of research abroad. The funding of the research group expired in April 2018.


Research Group Leader
Yvonne Brehmer

Yvonne Brehmer | Otto-Hahn-Forschungsgruppe | Otto Hahn Research Group
© Y. Brehmer

brehmer [at] mpib-berlin [dot] mpg [dot] de
yvonne [dot] brehmer [at] psy [dot] gu [dot] se

Selected Publications

Becker, N., Kalpouzos, G., Persson, J., Laukka, E. J., & Brehmer, Y. (2017). Differential effects of encoding instructions on brain activity patterns of item and associative memory. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29, 545-559. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01062

Papenberg, G., Becker, N., Ferencz, B., Naveh-Benjamin, M., Laukka, E. J., Bäckman, L., & Brehmer, Y. (2017). Dopamine receptor genes modulate associative memory in old age. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29, 245-253. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01048

Brehmer, Y., Shing, Y. L., Heekeren, H. R., Lindenberger, U., & Bäckman, L. (2016). Training-induced changes in subsequent-memory effects: No major differences among children, younger adults, and older adults. NeuroImage, 131, 214-225. doi:10.1016/ j.neuroimage.2015.11.074

Becker, N., Laukka, E. J., Kalpouzos, G., Naveh-Benjamin, M., Bäckman, L., & Brehmer, Y. (2015). Structural brain correlates of associative memory in older adults. NeuroImage, 118, 146-153. doi:10.1016/ j.neuroimage.2015.06.002