A study involving young (average age 22) and older adults (average age 77) showed participants pictures of overlapping faces and places (houses and buildings) and asked them to identify the gender of the person. While the young adults showed activity in the brain region for processing faces (fusiform face area) but not in the brain region for processing places (parahippocampal place area), both regions were active in the older adults. Additionally, on a surprise memory test 10 minutes later, older adults who showed greater activation in the place area were more likely to recognize what face was originally paired with what house.
These findings confirm earlier research showing that older adults become less capable of ignoring irrelevant information, and shows that this distracting information doesn’t merely interfere with what you’re trying to attend to, but is encoded in memory along with that information.
Failing to Ignore: Paradoxical Neural Effects of Perceptual Load on Early Attentional Selection in Normal Aging. J. Neurosci. [Internet]. 2010 ;30(44):14750 - 14758. Available from: http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/abstract/30/44/14750.