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
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.
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.