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Developmental aspects of the neural correlates of episodic encoding (DNE)
Start date: 01 Jan 2008, End date: 31 Dec 2009 PROJECT  FINISHED 

A central challenge of developmental cognitive neuroscience is to understand how neuroanatomical changes that occur during childhood and adolescence give rise to the development of cognitive abilities during this period. The studies proposed here are the first to investigate explicit episodic memory in a developmental context. Using fMRI, the so-called `subsequent memory¿ paradigm will be employed, in which, while scanned, participants will incidentally encode a series of stimuli, whose classification into "remembered" and "forgotten" trials will be made on the basis of a post-scanning recognition test.A comparison of the brain activation pattern associated with these trial types will be conducted in order to identify brain regions that support successful encoding. In adults, levels of neural activation in prefrontal cortical areas (PFC) as well as areas in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) have been observed to correlate with successful encoding. Anatomically, these two brain areas follow a different developmental trajectory, with MTL regions maturing relatively early and PFC regions reaching full maturation only in adolescence.Given children's ability to encode as well as adults (under certain circumstances), this raises the question of which neural systems support this ability in the absence of a mature PFC. The proposed studies attempt to create conditions under which, behaviourally, adults and children perform equally well, and then test whether the hypothesized differential engagement of PFC and MTL in memory encoding in adults and children is (a) observed, and (b) emerges as a function of specific episodic encoding task and components.This project is a natural continuation of the PhD and postdoctoral training I got at Harvard, and will be fundamental in my integration at the Hebrew University in Israel towards tenure. My successful reintegration will enable me to train future students and post docs, thus reducing the risk of brain drain from Europe.
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