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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010 Jun;34(7):1080-91. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.11.002. Epub 2009 Nov 6.

Episodic memory across the lifespan: the contributions of associative and strategic components.

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Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Lifespan Psychology, Berlin, Germany.


The structural and functional brain circuitries supporting episodic memory undergo profound reorganization in childhood and old age. We propose a two-component framework that combines and integrates evidence from child development and aging. It posits that episodic memory builds on two interacting components: (a) the strategic component, which refers to memory control operations, and (b) the associative component, which refers to mechanisms that bind different features of a memory episode into a compound representation. We hypothesize that: (a) children's difficulties in episodic memory primarily originate from low levels of strategic operations, and reflect the protracted development of the prefrontal cortex (PFC); (b) deficits in episodic memory performance among older adults originate from impairments in both strategic and associative components, reflecting senescent changes in the PFC and the medio-temporal lobes (MTL). Initial behavioral and neural evidence is consistent with both hypotheses. The two-component framework highlights the specificities of episodic memory in different age periods, helps to identify and dissociate its components, and contributes to understanding the interplay among maturation, learning, and senescence.

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