How behavior shapes the brain and the brain shapes behavior: Insights from memory development

Fengji Geng, Morgan Botdorf and Tracy Riggins

Journal of Neuroscience 14 December 2020, JN-RM-2611-19; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2611-19.2020

Abstract

Source memory improves substantially during childhood. This improvement is thought to be closely related to hippocampal maturation. As previous studies have mainly used cross-sectional designs to assess relations between source memory and hippocampal function, it remains unknown whether changes in the brain precede improvements in memory or vice versa. To address this gap, the current study used an accelerated longitudinal design (n=200, 100 males) to follow 4- and 6-year-old human children for 3 years. We traced developmental changes in source memory and intrinsic hippocampal functional connectivity and assessed differences between the 4- and 6-year-old cohorts in the predictive relations between source memory changes and intrinsic hippocampal functional connectivity in the absence of a demanding task. Consistent with previous studies, there were age-related increases in source memory and intrinsic functional connectivity between the hippocampus and cortical regions known to be involved during memory encoding. Novel findings showed that changes in memory ability early in life predicted later connectivity between the hippocampus and cortical regions and that intrinsic hippocampal functional connectivity predicted later changes in source memory. These findings suggest that behavioral experience and brain development are interactive, bidirectional processes, such that experience shapes future changes in the brain and the brain shapes future changes in behavior. Results also suggest that both timing and location matter, as the observed effects depended on both children’s age and the specific brain regions of interest. Together these findings add critical insight into the interactive relations between cognitive processes and their underlying neurological bases during development.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:

Cross-sectional studies have shown that the ability to remember the contextual details of previous experiences (i.e., source memory) is related to hippocampal development in childhood. It is unknown whether hippocampal function changes precede improvements in memory or vice versa. By using an accelerated longitudinal design, we found that early source memory changes predicted later intrinsic hippocampal functional connectivity and that this connectivity predicted later source memory changes. These findings suggest that behavioral experience and brain development are interactive, bidirectional processes, such that experience shapes future changes in the brain and the brain shapes future behavioral changes. Moreover, these interactions varied as a function of children’s age and brain region, highlighting the importance of a developmental perspective when investigating brain-behavior interactions.

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About S. R. Zelenz 117 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.