Paradigm shift in memory development

August 2, 2010, UC Davis

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study from UC Davis challenges conventional wisdom on the development of memory in children.

The prevailing view has been that changes in how memories are formed as grow are driven by development of the prefrontal cortex, while the role of the hippocampus, a structure located in the middle of the brain and known to be important for forming and recalling memories, is fixed in early childhood, said Simona Ghetti, associate professor at the UC Davis Department of Psychology and the Center for Mind and Brain.

Instead, a new study by Ghetti and colleagues shows that between the ages of eight and 14, the function of the hippocampus continues to change. The study was published this month in the .

"The development of prefrontal function is important, but we found that the hippocampus also continues to develop," Ghetti said.

Episodic allows us to recall past events with details in context — not just which jacket you wore today, but where you left it. The hippocampus binds those different aspects into a single memory. Between childhood and adolescence, children get better at remembering episodes and reasoning about their memories.

The researchers studied four age groups: eight-year-olds, 10-to-11 year-olds, 14-year-olds and young adults (college students).

In the study, the subjects were asked to carry out a simple task while undergoing (a type of brain scan).

The task involved looking at a series of pictures, some drawn in red ink and some in green. For each red picture, the subjects were asked to judge whether the image was something that could be found in a house; for each green picture, they were asked to decide if it was a living thing.

Later, outside the scanner, they were shown the pictures again, in black ink and mixed with new ones. The subjects were and asked whether they had seen them before and whether they had been red or green.

Younger children were less selective in using brain regions in the hippocampus and the adjacent posterior parahippocampus as new memories were formed, the researchers found. Older children and young adults became more selective and in recruiting specific areas of the hippocampus during formation.

The discovery should open the door to more research, Ghetti said.

"We need to learn how the hippocampus is changing and what the implications of these changes are for the development of episodic memory; we also need to know how the interaction between the and other relevant regions, most importantly the prefrontal cortex, changes during child development," she said.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Brainwaves show how exercising to music bends your mind

February 18, 2018
Headphones are a standard sight in gyms and we've long known research shows listening to tunes can be a game-changer for your run or workout.

Newborn babies who suffered stroke regain language function in opposite side of brain

February 17, 2018
It's not rare that a baby experiences a stroke around the time it is born. Birth is hard on the brain, as is the change in blood circulation from the mother to the neonate. At least 1 in 4,000 babies are affected shortly ...

To sleep, perchance to forget

February 17, 2018
The debate in sleep science has gone on for a generation. People and other animals sicken and die if they are deprived of sleep, but why is sleep so essential?

Lab-grown human cerebellar cells yield clues to autism

February 16, 2018
Increasing evidence has linked autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with dysfunction of the brain's cerebellum, but the details have been unclear. In a new study, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital used stem cell technology ...

Fragile X syndrome neurons can be restored, study shows

February 16, 2018
Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent cause of intellectual disability in males, affecting one out of every 3,600 boys born. The syndrome can also cause autistic traits, such as social and communication deficits, as well ...

Brain-machine interface study suggests how brains prepare for action

February 16, 2018
Somewhere right now in Pyeongchang, South Korea, an Olympic skier is thinking through the twists and spins she'll make in the aerial competition, a speed skater is visualizing how he'll sneak past a competitor on the inside ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.