Neuroscientific and cognitive psychological research casts a fresh light on memory development in childhood and adolescence. The hippocampus plays a more important role than previously thought. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Temple University present their latest findings in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
Parents know one of the paradoxes of human development well: Toddlers seem to acquire knowledge about their world effortlessly, but at the same time they often do not remember specific events. They learn that tigers have stripes, but forget their trip to the zoo—who they went with, what they ate, what they wore, and so on. Children’s better memory for the generalizable than for the specific persists, albeit in a weaker form, up until pre-school and even primary school age.
Differences in the maturation of the regions of the hippocampus may explain this developmental paradox. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and Temple University in Philadelphia have collaborated to review these findings in an article in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
The hippocampus is located deep in the brain and plays an important role in processes of learning and memory. Different areas within it prioritize generalization versus details. “Generalizing first allows small children to get their bearings in the world,” says first author Attila Keresztes from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
“Building up stable notions of repeating events and language acquisition are part of the ability to generalize. On this basis, children become increasingly better at separating the specific from the general and at remembering details as well,“ adds Keresztes.
The processes enabling this developmental trajectory are called pattern completion and pattern separation. Pattern completion extracts the generalizable across different experiences, whereas pattern separation identifies the differences between events and thereby allows memory for details.
The Berlin team’s high-resolution brain imaging data show that the regions of the hippocampus responsible for pattern completion and pattern separation mature at different rates. The researchers regard this coordinated maturation of spezialized areas of the hippocampus as being the cause of the observed development trend from the general to the specific.
“Last year we realized that we had arrived at the same conclusions in independent studies. So we decided to write a position paper together with our Berlin colleagues,“ says Nora Newcombe, Professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. She regards the approach developed together as a pivotal reorientation in the study of human memory development.
So far, the assumption was that the hippocampus was more or less mature by the age of six years and further memory development was only dependent on the maturation of the neocortex, explains Nora Newcombe. Now it is clear that maturation of the hippocampus continues into adoslescence. “The textbooks need to be rewritten,“ says Newcombe.
The details of hippocampal maturation and its links with neocortical maturation will be examined in further experiments and longitudinal studies, using behavioral assessment, neuroimaging, and computer models of the interactions between pattern completion and pattern separation.
Keresztes, A., Ngo, C. T., Lindenberger, U., Werkle-Bergner, M., & Newcombe, N. S. (2018). Hippocampal maturation drives memory from generalization to specificity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22, 676-686. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.05.004
Kerstin Skork | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
Cebit 2018: Saarbrücken Start-up combines Tinkering and Programming for Elementary School Kids
05.06.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes
The classroom of tomorrow – DFKI and TUK open lab for new digital teaching and learning methods
03.05.2018 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.
Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...
Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles
Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...
When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.
We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...
Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...
Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...
17.10.2018 | Event News
16.10.2018 | Event News
02.10.2018 | Event News
22.10.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
22.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
22.10.2018 | Medical Engineering