Neural Correlates and Reinstatement of Recent and Remote Memory: A Comparison Between Children and Young Adults

Iryna Schommartz, Philip F. Lembcke, Javier Ortiz-Tudela, M. Bauer, Angela M. Kaindl, Claudia Buss, Yee Lee Shing

Memory consolidation tends to be less robust in childhood than adulthood. However, little is known about the corresponding functional differences in the developing brain that may underlie age-related differences in retention of memories over time. This study examined system-level memory consolidation of object-scene associations after learning (immediate delay), one night of sleep (short delay), as well as two weeks (long delay) in 5-to-7-year-old children (n = 49) and in young adults (n = 39), as a reference group with mature consolidation systems. Particularly, we characterized how functional neural activation and reinstatement of neural patterns change over time, assessed by functional magnetic resonance imaging combined with representational (dis)similarity analysis (RSA). Our results showed that memory consolidation in children was less robust (i.e., more forgetting) compared to young adults. For correctly retained remote memories, young adults showed increased neural activation from short to long delay in neocortical (parietal, prefrontal and occipital) and cerebellar brain regions, while children showed increased neural activation in prefrontal and decrease in neural activity in parietal brain regions over time. In addition, there was an overall attenuated scene-specific memory reinstatement of neural patterns in children compared to young adults. At the same time, we observed category-based reinstatement in medial-temporal, neocortical (prefrontal and parietal), and cerebellar brain regions only in children. Taken together, 5-to-7-year-old children, compared to young adults, show less robust memory consolidation, possibly due to difficulties in engaging in differentiated neural reinstatement in neocortical mnemonic regions during retrieval of remote memories, coupled with relying more on gist-like, category-based neural reinstatement.

eLife. 12:RP89908 (2023)

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