Priming recognition in good sleepers and in insomniacs.
Priming effects on the identification process were examined in young and older adults by using event-related potentials (ERPs). Animals and artifacts were presented in an ascending sequence of filtered images, half of which had been shown in their complete versions in a previous study phase. Each stimulus was represented by a progressively less filtered image (i.e., more complete) until the whole version was revealed in a sequence of frames. Such a paradigm allowed us to record ERPs prior to, and during, the identification of stimuli. Results showed a dynamic interplay between memory, category, and aging effects. At the moment of identification, young adults elicited larger positivity at parietal sites for previously studied stimuli and this effect was not observed for older adults. For stimuli previously studied, a striking effect was observed in both groups at the level just prior to overt identification. In addition, a frontally distributed priming effect was evident in the elderly. Category-related ERP differences emerged between the two age groups. In particular, younger participants elicited an early positive activation at anterior sites upon seeing stimuli of animals. These results are discussed in relation to current models of recognition memory, categorization, and age-related cognitive decline.