Feature binding of common everyday items is not affected by age

Hoefeijzers, Serge and González Hernández, Alfredis and Magnolia Rios, Angela and Parra, Mario A. (2017) Feature binding of common everyday items is not affected by age. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 9. ISSN 1663-4365

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    Abstract

    There is a surge of studies confirming that old age spares the ability to bind in visual working memory (VWM) multiple features within singular object representations. Furthermore, it has been suggested that such ability may also be independent of the cultural background of the assessed individual. However, this evidence has been gathered with tasks that use arbitrary bindings of unfamiliar features. Whether age spares memory binding functions when the memoranda are features of everyday life objects remains less well explored. The present study investigated the influence of age, memory delay, and education, on conjunctive binding functions responsible for representing everyday items in VWM. We asked 32 healthy young and 41 healthy older adults to perform a memory binding task. During the task, participants saw visual arrays of objects, colours, or coloured objects presented for 6 s. Immediately after they were asked either to select the objects or the colours that were presented during the study display from larger sets of objects or colours, or to recombine them by selecting from such sets the objects and their corresponding colours. This procedure was repeated immediately after but this time providing a 30 s unfiled delay. We manipulated familiarity by presenting congruent and incongruent object-colour pairings. The results showed that the ability to bind intrinsic features in VWM does not decline with age even when these features belong to everyday items and form novel or well-known associations. Such preserved memory binding abilities held across memory delays. The impact of feature congruency on item-recognition appears to be greater in older than in younger adults. This suggests that long-term memory (LTM) supports binding functions carried out in VWM for familiar everyday items and older adults still benefit from this LTM support. We have expanded the evidence supporting the lack of age effects on VWM binding functions to new feature and object domains (i.e., everyday items). We have confirmed that education does not negatively impact on such ability at old age. Such results have important implications for the selection of culturally unbiased tests to screen for abnormal ageing trajectories.