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The relationship between recognition memory for emotion-laden words and white matter microstructure in normal older individuals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1345-1349
Number of pages5
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Functional neuroimaging studies have shown age-related differences in brain activation and connectivity patterns for emotional memory. Previous studies with middle-aged and older adults have reported associations between episodic memory and white matter (WM) microstructure obtained from diffusion tensor imaging, but such studies on emotional memory remain few. To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore associations between WM microstructure as measured by fractional anisotropy (FA) and recognition memory for intentionally encoded positive, negative, and emotionally neutral words using tract-based spatial statistics applied to diffusion tensor imaging images in an elderly sample (44 cognitively intact adults aged 50-79 years). The use of tract-based spatial statistics enables the identification of WM tracts important to emotional memory without a priori assumptions required for region-of-interest approaches that have been used in previous work. The behavioral analyses showed a positivity bias, that is, a preference for positive words, in recognition memory. No statistically significant associations emerged between FA and memory for negative or neutral words. Controlling for age and memory performance for negative and neutral words, recognition memory for positive words was negatively associated with FA in several projection, association, and commissural tracts in the left hemisphere. This likely reflects the complex interplay between the mnemonic positivity bias, structural WM integrity, and functional brain compensatory mechanisms in older age. Also, the unexpected directionality of the results indicates that the WM microstructural correlates of emotional memory show unique characteristics in normal older individuals.

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • diffusion tensor imaging, emotional memory, normal aging, white matter

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland