Integrating across memory episodes: developmental trends

Yee Lee Shing, Carsten Finke, Martina Hoffmann, Anna Pajkert, Hauke R Heekeren and Christoph J Ploner

Memory enables us to use information from our past experiences to guide new behaviours, calling for the need to integrate or form inference across multiple distinct episodic experiences. Here, we compared children (aged 9–10 years), adolescents (aged 12–13 years), and young adults (aged 19–25 years) on their ability to form integration across overlapping associations in memory. Participants first encoded a set of overlapping, direct AB- and BC-associations (object-face and face-object pairs) as well as non-overlapping, unique DE-associations. They were then tested on these associations and inferential AC-associations. The experiment consisted of four such encoding/retrieval cycles, each consisting of different stimuli set. For accuracy on both unique and inferential associations, young adults were found to outperform teenagers, who in turn outperformed children. However, children were particularly slower than teenagers and young adults in making judgements during inferential than during unique associations. This suggests that children may rely more on making inferences during retrieval, by first retrieving the direct associations, followed by making the inferential judgement. Furthermore, young adults showed a higher correlation between accuracy in direct (AB, BC) and inferential AC-associations than children. This suggests that, young adults relied closely on AB- and BC-associations for making AC decisions, potentially by forming integrated ABC-triplets during encoding or retrieval. Taken together, our findings suggest that there may be an age-related shift in how information is integrated across experienced episodes, namely from relying on making inferences at retrieval during middle childhood to forming integrated representations at different memory processing stages in adulthood.

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PLoS One. 14(4):e0215848 (2019)


childrenhippocampusmemoryprefrontal cortextyoung adults
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