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Declines in cognitive abilities among ageing adults are observed phenomena. But are these declines ‘across the board’ or are they modular? The answer affects theory and practice, including potential treatments that may reduce the declines. Deficits in emotion recognition may provide a window into what is occurring in the ageing brain. We investigated whether changes in recognition of emotion could be attributed to a decline in memory processes. Sixty-two participants recruited from South-Eastern Queensland divided into young (19-49), middle old (49-64) and old (65 and above) cohorts performed computer administered tasks assessing emotion recognition, verbal and non-verbal memory. Older adults evidenced decline in recognition of anger, surprised and fearful faces. In addition, age related decline was evident in verbal memory performance. However, there was no corresponding decline in non-verbal memory performance. The dissociation of non-verbal memory performance from emotion recognition performance provides support for a modular decline model of age-related decline. The detection of decline in both verbal memory performance and emotion recognition suggests a common underlying process may be associated with both. Performance on the emotion recognition task may be verbally mediated. This study provides valuable insight into the ageing process and suggests decline may occur asynchronously- that is, is modular.
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