Memory Image Completion (MIC): Establishing a task to behaviorally assess pattern completion in humans
For memory retrieval, pattern completion is a crucial process that restores memories from partial or degraded cues. Neurocognitive aging models suggest that the aged memory system is biased toward pattern completion, resulting in a behavioral preference for retrieval over encoding of memories. While there are behavioral tasks to assess the encoding side of these memory differences, pattern completion has received less attention in the literature. Here, we built on our previously developed
... oral recognition memory paradigm - the Memory Image Completion task (MIC) - a task to specifically target pattern completion. First, we used the original design with concurrent eye-tracking in order to rule out perceptual confounds that could interact with recognition performance. Second, we developed parallel versions of the task to accommodate test settings in clinical environments or longitudinal studies. The results show that older adults have a deficit in pattern completion ability with a concurrent bias toward pattern completion - a replication of previously found effects. Importantly, eye-tracking data during encoding could not account for age-related performance differences. At retrieval, spatial viewing patterns for both age groups were more driven by stimulus identity than by response choice, but compared to young adults, older adults' fixation patterns overlapped more between stimuli that they (wrongly) thought had the same identity. This supports the observation that when making errors older adults choose responses perceived as similar to the correct stimulus, which is interpreted as a bias toward pattern completion. Additionally, two shorter versions of the task yielded comparable results, and no general learning effects were observed for repeated testing. Together, we present evidence that the MIC is a reliable behavioral task that targets pattern completion, that is easily and repeatedly applicable, and that is made freely available online.