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.

Students Sought

  • for positions as student assistants starting in March 2018

Details are available here:

Minerva Group (led by Myriam C. Sander)

Minerva klein

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.

From a neuroscientific perspective, our memories are encoded in specific distributed patterns of neural activity, i.e., these patterns can be regarded as memory fingerprints. During encoding of memories, specific representational patterns are formed (e.g., meeting a person for the first time). These can be reactivated during later recall (when seeing the person again). The more similar the reactivated pattern is to the original pattern, the more likely we are to retrieve a specific memory (it is easier to recognize a person if you meet her again in a similar context). In order to achieve optimal memory performance, patterns of different memories need to be similar, but sufficiently distinct, whereas patterns of the same memory should be as similar as possible. To render memories durable, our brain usually spontaneously reactivates and thus strengthens novel patterns during rest and sleep periods.

We investigate how aging affects the distinctiveness and similarity of memory representations during memory formation and retrieval. Specifically, we want to understand how changes in the quality of memory representations affect older adults' memory performance. A second line of research targets age differences in the spontaneous reactivation of memories during wakefulness and sleep.

Minerva Team

Myriam C. Sander (Leader)

Claudia Wehrspaun (Postdoc)

Anna Karlsson
Verena R. Sommer (Predocs)

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

Fandakova, Y., Sander, M. C., Grandy, T. H., Cabeza, R., Werkle-Bergner, M., & Shing, Y. L. (in press). Age differences in false memory: The importance of retrieval monitoring processes and their modulation by memory quality. Psychology and Aging.

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

Raffington, L., Schmiedek, F., Heim, C., & Shing, Y. L. (2018). Cognitive control moderates parenting stress effects on children's diurnal cortisol. PLoS ONE, 13(1): e0191215. https://doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pone.0191215

Brod, G., Bunge, S. A., & Shing, Y. L. (2017). Does one year of schooling improve children's cognitive control and alter associated brain activation? Psychological Science, 28, 967–978. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617699838
See Press release

Grandy, T. H., Lindenberger, U., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2017). When group means fail: Can one size fit all? BioRxiv: 126490. https://doi.org/10.1101/126490

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


Looking for Volunteers in Berlin

For our studies we are looking for German speaking participants between ages 20 and 30 as well as 65 and 75. Please 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

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