Cognitive and Neural Dynamics of Memory Across the Lifespan

© Philipp S. Neundorf


The overarching objective of this project is to provide mechanistic explanations for developmental changes and interindividual differences in various aspects and functions of memory, with an emphasis on episodic and working memory. The project proceeds on the assumption that lifespan changes in memory functioning can be mapped onto the interacting contributions of two components, one associative and the other strategic. The associative component of memory refers to mechanisms that bind different aspects of an event into a cohesive memory representation and can be linked to medio-temporal areas (especially the hippocampus) as well as posterior association areas. The strategic component refers to attentional and control processes that aid and regulate memory functions and is mainly supported by prefrontal and parietal regions. Interactions among maturational, experience-dependent, and senescent forces shape the relative contributions of associative and strategic processes during memory encoding, consolidation, and retrieval.

Team photo

© MPI for Human Development

Minerva Group (led by Myriam C. Sander)

Bild von Marcus Mailov
© M. Mailov

Age Differences in Memory Representations

Established in 2016, Myriam Sander’s research group aims to track the life cycle of memories in both mind and brain to understand how aging affects memory representations and performance.

Further information

Minerva Group 2012–2016 (led by Yee Lee Shing)

Delineating Environmental Effects on Brain and Cognitive Development

The overarching goal of this group to better understand the mechanisms through which environmental factors, such as school entry and stress-related social disadvantage, may affect neural and behavioral development. The HippoKID Study longitudinally followed children born close to the cut-off date for school entry who subsequently did or did not enter school that year. Schoolchildren displayed larger behavioral improvements in cognitive control than kindergarteners, and also showed increased activation in posterior parietal cortex, a region important for sustained attention, while performing an inhibitory control task. In contrast, longitudinally observed improvements in episodic memory did not differ reliably between the two groups, suggesting that formal school entry primarily promotes brain mechanisms that help children to focus on cognitively demanding tasks. The longitudinal Jacobs Study aims to elucidate the roles of glucocorticoid and inflammation signaling in mediating the effects of stress on neural and behavioral development while assessing moderators at multiple levels, including (epi-)genetic dispositions.

Recent Publications

Brod, G., & Shing, Y. L. (2019). A boon and a bane: Comparing the effects of prior knowledge on memory across the lifespan. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000712

Dahl, M. J., Ilg, L., Li, S.-C., Passow, S., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2019). Diminished pre-stimulus alpha-lateralization suggests compromised self-initiated attentional control of auditory processing in old age. NeuroImage. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.04.080

Dahl, M. J., Mather, M. M., Sander, M. C., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2019). Noradrenergic responsiveness preserves selective attention across the adult life span. BioRxiv: 551879. https://doi.org/10.1101/551879

Fandakova, Y., Leckey, S., Driver, C. C., Bunge, S. A., & Ghetti, S. (2019). Neural specificity of scene representations is related to memory performance in childhood. NeuroImage. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.05.050

Fandakova, Y., Werkle-Bergner, M., & Sander, M. C. (2019). (Only) time can tell: Age differences in false memory are magnified at longer delays. PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/eh5x7

Muehlroth, B. E., Sander, M. C., Fandakova, Y., Grandy, T. H., Rasch, B., Shing, Y. L., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2019). Precise slow oscillation-spindle coupling promotes memory consolidation in younger and older adults. Scientific Reports, 9: 1940. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-36557-z

Muehlroth, B., Sander, M. C., Fandakova, Y., Grandy, T. H., Rasch, B., Shing, Y. L., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2019). Memory quality modulates the effect of aging on memory consolidation during sleep: Reduced maintenance but intact gain. BioRxiv: 547448. https://doi.org/10.1101/547448

Sander, M. C., Maier, P. M., Napiorkowski, N., Finke, K., Toellner, T., Mueller, H. J., ... Wiegand, I. (2019). Are differences in hemispheric lateralization in spatial and verbal visual working memory. BioRxiv: 577858. https://doi.org/10.1101/577858

Sander, M. C., Fandakova, Y., Grandy, T. H., Shing, Y. L., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2019). Oscillatory mechanisms of successful memory formation in younger and older adults are related to structural integrity. BioRxiv: 530101. https://doi.org/10.1101/530121

Sommer, V. R., Fandakova, Y., Grandy, T. H., Shing, Y. L., Werkle-Bergner, M., & Sander, M. C. (2019). Neural pattern similarity differentially affects memory performance of younger and older adults. BioRxiv: 528620. https://doi.org/10.1101/528620

Wiegand, I., & Sander, M. C. (2019). Cue-related processing accounts for age differences in phasic alerting. Neurobiology of Aging. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2019.03.017

Brod, G., & Shing, Y. L. (2018). Specifying the role of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in memory formation. Neuropsychologia, 111, 8–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.01.005

Dahl, M. J., Mather, M., Düzel, S., Bodammer, N. C., Lindenberger, U., Kühn, S., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2018). Locus coeruleus integrity preserves memory performance across the adult life span. BioRxiv: 332098. https://doi.org/10.1101/332098

Fandakova, Y., Sander, M. C., Grandy, T. H., Cabeza, R., Werkle-Bergner, M., & Shing, Y. L. (2018). Age differences in false memory: The importance of retrieval monitoring processes and their modulation by memory quality. Psychology and Aging, 33, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1037/pag0000212

Keresztes, A., Ngo, C. T., Lindenberger, U., Werkle-Bergner, M., & Newcombe, N. S. (2018). Hippocampal maturation drives memory from generalization to specificity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22, 676–686. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.05.004

Raffington, L., Prindle, J., Keresztes, A., Binder, J., Heim, C., & Shing, Y. L. (2018). Blunted cortisol stress reactivity in low–income children relates to lower memory function. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 90, 110–121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.02.002

Raffington, L., Prindle, J., & Shing, Y. L. (2018). Income gains predict cognition longitudinally throughout later childhood in poor children. Developmental Psychology, 54, 1232–1243. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000529

Raffington, L., Schmiedek, F., Heim, C., & Shing, Y. L. (2018). Cognitive control moderates parenting stress effects on children's diurnal cortisol. PLoS ONE, 13: e0191215. https://doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pone.0191215


Ulman Lindenberger
Myriam C. Sander
(Minerva Research Group Leader)
Markus Werkle-Bergner

Mara Mather (adjunct researcher, Max Planck Sabbatical Award)

Yee Lee Shing (adjunct researcher)

Malte Kobelt
Claudia Wehrspaun (postdoctoral fellows)

Martin Dahl
Ann-Kathrin Joechner

Anna Karlsson
Beate Mühlroth
Verena R. Sommer (predoctoral fellows)

Gabriele Faust (research assistant)

Looking for Volunteers in Berlin

For our studies we are looking for German speaking participants. If you are fluent in German, please go to the German website for more information. You can contact us by phone at 030-82406-392 or make use of our contact form (cue in "Your Message": ConMem).

Key References

Brod, G., Lindenberger, U., & Shing, Y. L. (2017). Neural activation patterns during retrieval of schema-related memories: Differences and commonalities between children and adults. Developmental Science, 20: e12475. doi: 10.1111/desc.12475

Brod, G., Lindenberger, U., Werkle-Bergner, M., & Shing, Y. L. (2015). Differences in the neural signature of remembering schema-congruent and schema-incongruent events. NeuroImage, 117, 358–366. doi: 10.1016/ j.neuroimage.2015.05.086

Karch, J. D., Sander, M. C., von Oertzen, T., Brandmaier, A. M., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2015). Using within-subject pattern classification to understand lifespan age differences in oscillatory mechanisms of working memory selection and maintenance. NeuroImage, 118, 538–552. doi: 10.1016/ j.neuroimage.2015.04.038

Keresztes, A., Bender, A. R., Bodammer, N. C., Lindenberger, U., Shing, Y. L., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2017). Hippocampal maturity promotes memory distinctiveness in childhood and adolescence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114, 9212–9217. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas. 1710654114

Sander, M. C., Lindenberger, U., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2012). Lifespan age differences in working memory: A two- component framework. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 36, 2007–2033. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.06.004

Shing, Y. L., Werkle-Bergner, M., Brehmer, Y., Mueller, V., Li, S.-C., & Lindenberger, U. (2010). Episodic memory across the lifespan: The contributions of associative and strategic components. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 34, 1080–1091. doi: 10.1016/ j.neubiorev.2009.11.002