Relations between Memory Measures and Hippocampal Volumes in Early Childhood
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The phenomenon of childhood amnesia, in which only a mere fraction of childhood experiences is remembered, may be due to changes in the underlying neural mechanisms supporting memory. However, this assumption is largely based on measures of memory from lab-based tasks, which show relations with specific brain areas. It is unclear whether tasks in the lab used to measure childhood memory skills map onto children’s memory for experiences in everyday life. This study aimed to address this gap by investigating the potential relation between two different tasks completed by 200 4- to 8-year-old children. Specifically, children completed both a rich, open-ended autobiographical interview examining children’s recall for real-world events, and a controlled, laboratory-based assessment that examines children’s memory for temporal order. This study assessed whether both/either tasks show 1) age-related differences, 2) relations to each other, and 3) relations to the volume of the hippocampus, a neural structure thought to be critical for memory. Results indicated that performance on both tasks show positive age-related differences, and relations to each other. However, neither task was related to the hippocampus. Overall, this work contributes new knowledge regarding memory development by examining the extent to which naturalistic versus laboratory-based tasks similarly measure children’s developing memory abilities, and suggests important avenues of future research.