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The effects of ageing and exercise on recollection and familiarity based memory processes

Tunney, Richard J.; Allen, Harriet A.; Bonardi, Charlotte; Blake, Holly


Richard J. Tunney


Davide Bruno


In the UK’s 2011 census there were high proportions of people between 20 and 49 years-old, with each 5-year band containing at least 4 million. Thus between 2022 and 2051 we can expect large numbers of people to enter their 60s, around 2 billion globally. As people live longer healthier lives, the natural decline in their cognitive abilities impacts on everyday activities and impairs quality of life. A major component of this is deterioration in memory. It is well established that as people age, although still able to recognize people as familiar, they are less likely to retrieve details such as their name or why they are familiar (the butcheron-the-bus phenomenon). This has been taken as evidence that recognition memory comprises a number of interacting yet largely independent processes, and for the distinction between familiarity - recognizing people, places and objects - and retrieving contextual details such as a person’s name - recollection. Research with both humans and animals suggests that this is due to a relative decline in functioning of the hippocampus, and that this structure is responsible for recollection, while familiarity based-processes are mediated in adjacent regions such as the rhinal cortex. Selective decline in the ability to retrieve contextual information is one of the more debilitating effects of age on memory, and so it is crucial to find ways of ameliorating this process. Although many studies indicate that even brief exercise interventions can enhance performance on a number of neuro-psychological tests of cognitive function, the precise mechanisms underlying these effects are unclear. One intriguing possibility stems from evidence that physical activity produces synaptogenesis and neurogenesis in the hippocampus - which might ameliorate or reverse the age-related decline in hippocampal function thought to impair the recollection process. In this chapter we review the evidence for this hypothesis using data from both rodent and human studies.


Tunney, R. J., Allen, H. A., Bonardi, C., & Blake, H. (2015). D. Bruno (Ed.). The effects of ageing and exercise on recollection and familiarity based memory processes. London: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Book Type Edited Book
Acceptance Date Jan 16, 2015
Online Publication Date Dec 22, 2015
Publication Date Dec 8, 2015
Deposit Date Oct 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 9, 2018
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Pages 139-151
Book Title The Preservation of Memory: Theory and Practice for Clinical and Non-Clinical Populations
Chapter Number 9
ISBN 9781138840188
Public URL


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