Memory and the developing brain: From description to explanation with innovation in methods

Noa Ofen*, Lingfei Tang, Qijing Yu, Elizabeth L. Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Recent advances in human cognitive neuroscience show great promise in extending our understanding of the neural basis of memory development. We briefly review the current state of knowledge, highlighting that most work has focused on describing the neural correlates of memory in cross-sectional studies. We then delineate three examples of the application of innovative methods in addressing questions that go beyond description, towards a mechanistic understanding of memory development. First, structural brain imaging and the harmonization of measurements across laboratories may uncover ways in which the maturation of the brain constrains the development of specific aspects of memory. Second, longitudinal designs and sophisticated modeling of the data may identify age-driven changes and the factors that determine individual developmental trajectories. Third, recording memory-related activity directly from the developing brain presents an unprecedented opportunity to examine how distinct brain structures support memory in real time. Finally, the growing prevalence of data sharing offers additional means to tackle questions that demand large-scale datasets, ambitious designs, and access to rare samples. We propose that the use of such innovative methods will move our understanding of memory development from a focus on describing trends to explaining the causal factors that shape behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100613
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • ECoG
  • Functional MRI
  • Hippocampus
  • Longitudinal design
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Structural MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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