Development of Memory Systems in the Human Brain
Noa Ofen, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology
Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience Program, Institute of Gerontology
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA
Currently: Visiting Scientist, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Episodic memory – the ability to encode, maintain and retrieve information – is critical for everyday functioning at all ages, yet still fairly little is known about the development of episodic memory systems and their brain substrates. In this talk, I will present data from a series of studies with which we investigate how functional and structural brain development underlies changes in memory functioning throughout childhood and adolescence. Using functional neuroimaging methods, including fMRI and electrocorticography (ECoG), we characterize the neural correlates of memory processes and identify, across age, an increase in memory-related activation and functional connectivity of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a region that also shows protracted structural development. Using structural MRI, we show that age-related increase in the functional contribution of the PFC to memory may be directly related to improvement in the use of mnemonic strategies with age. The hippocampus, known to be critical for episodic memory, shows complex patterns of age-related differences across development. Using high-resolution structural MRI data, we investigate hippocampal maturation and find evidence that age differences in hippocampal subfield volumes are related to age differences in associative memory ability. Characterizing normative development of brain systems that support episodic memory has direct implications for the understanding of memory systems in adults and aging, as well as in atypical development.