Relations between Memory Measures and Hippocampal Volumes in Early Childhood


The phenomenon of childhood amnesia, in which only a mere fraction of childhood experiences is remembered, may be due to changes in underlying neural mechanisms supporting memory (Willoughby et al., 2012; Bauer, 2007). However, it is unknown whether lab tasks used to measure childhood memory skills map onto everyday life experiences. This study aims to address that gap through an investigation of two different measures completed by 200 4- to 8-year-old children. One task is a rich open-ended autobiographical interview examining recall for real-world events; the other is a controlled laboratory-based assessment examining memory for temporal order using a series of child-appropriate pictures. This study asks whether both tasks show relations to 1) age group, 2) underlying neural mechanisms, and 3) performance as compared to each other. The hippocampus is a likely candidate underlying behavioral changes during early childhood because it undergoes significant development during this time (Gogtay et al., 2006; Lavenex & Lavenex, 2013) and supports memory in school-aged children and adults (Ghetti & Bunge, 2012). Autobiographical memories were scored using a modified interview coding scheme based on Levine et al. (2002). Temporal order was scored as proportion of adjacent pictures correctly ordered across two 9-item sequences. Hippocampal subregions were delineated using manually identified anatomical landmarks (Riggins et al., 2018). Preliminary results indicate age-related performance differences and hippocampal volume correlations. This work contributes to knowledge about the extent to which naturalistic versus lab-based tasks similarly measure memory abilities.