Volume of hippocampal subfields and episodic memory in childhood and adolescence

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Abstract

Episodic memory critically depends on the hippocampus to bind the features of an experience into memory. Episodic memory develops in childhood and adolescence, and hippocampal changes during this period may contribute to this development. Little is known, however, about how the hippocampus contributes to episodic memory development. The hippocampus is comprised of several cytoarchitectural subfields with functional significance for episodic memory. However, hippocampal subfields have not been assessed in vivo during child development, nor has their relation with episodic memory been assessed during this period. In the present study, high-resolution T2-weighted images of the hippocampus were acquired in 39 children and adolescents aged 8 to 14 years (M = 11.30, SD = 2.38), and hippocampal subfields were segmented using a protocol previously validated in adult populations. We first validated the method in children and adolescents and examined age-related differences in hippocampal subfields and correlations between subfield volumes and episodic memory. Significant age-related increases in the subfield volume were observed into early adolescence in the right CA3/DG and CA1. The right CA3/DG subfield volumes were positively correlated with accurate episodic memory for item–color relations, and the right CA3/DG and subiculum were negatively correlated with item false alarm rates. Subfield development appears to follow a protracted developmental trajectory, and likely plays a pivotal role in episodic memory development.

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