Sex-related Differences in Aging and Metamemory

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Homsy, Vanessa
Wheeler, Mark
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Metamemory, knowledge of one’s memory capabilities, is an important measure for learning and cognitive functioning in addition to having clinical relevance, such as being used as a diagnostic tool in cognitive diseases. There have been mixed findings on the preservation of metamemory in age, though most research suggests that it is indeed preserved. However, research has not fully broached the question of whether males and females differ in metamemory accuracy with age. The current study analyzes sex differences in metamemory through an associative memory task. Participants (Males =14, Females =8) were asked to encode 120 word-picture pairs, with pictures being either of houses or faces. Judgements of learning (JOLs) were used after each association as a measure of their metamemory. The JOLs were categorized as either confident or not confident. After a series of behavioral tests, participants went into a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) for the retrieval portion, where they were shown learned words and had to choose the picture associate. Due to time constraints, fMRI scans were unable to be analyzed. A multiple linear regression model for the impact of sex, confidence, and the interaction of sex and confidence on percent correct at retrieval was performed. The model revealed that all three predictor variables, including sex (p < 0.01), were accurate predictors of percent correct at retrieval, with females having worse metamemory accuracy than males. The results provide novel evidence that metamemory preservation in age differs between the sexes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sample size of this study is small and thus future studies should further look into sex as a predictor of metamemory accuracy with age, as well as potential neural correlates such as gray matter volume and functional connectivity.
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