Background: Understanding the maturation and organization of cognitive function in the brain is a central objective of both child neurology and developmental cognitive neuroscience. This study focuses on episodic memory encoding of verbal information by children, a cognitive domain not previously studied using fMRI. Methods: Children from 7 to 19 years of age were scanned at 1.5-T field strength using event-related fMRI while performing a novel verbal memory encoding paradigm in which words were incidentally encoded. A subsequent memory analysis was performed. SPM2 was utilized for whole brain and region-of-interest analyses of data. Both whole-sample intragroup analyses and intergroup analyses of the sample divided into 2 subgroups by age were conducted. Results: Importantly, behavioral memory performance was equal across the age range of children studied. Encoding-related activation in the left hippocampus and bilateral basal ganglia declined as age increased. In addition, while robust blood oxygen level-dependent signal was found in left prefrontal cortex with task performance, no encoding-related age-modulated prefrontal activation was observed in either hemisphere. Conclusion: These data are consistent with a developmental pattern of verbal memory encoding function in which left hippocampal and bilateral basal ganglionic activations are more robust earlier in childhood but then decline with age. No encoding-related activation was found in prefrontal cortex which may relate to this region's recognized delay in biologic maturation in humans. These data represent the first fMRI demonstration of verbal encoding function in children and are relevant developmentally and clinically.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology