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Sci Adv. 2018 Dec 19;4(12):eaat3702. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat3702. eCollection 2018 Dec.

Direct brain recordings reveal prefrontal cortex dynamics of memory development.

Johnson EL1,2, Tang L1,3, Yin Q1,3, Asano E4, Ofen N1,3,5,6.

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Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.
Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA.
Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.
Departments of Pediatrics and Neurology, Children's Hospital of Michigan, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.
Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.
Neurobiology Department, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


Prevailing theories link prefrontal cortex (PFC) maturation to the development of declarative memory. However, the precise spatiotemporal correlates of memory formation in the developing brain are not known. We provide rare intracranial evidence that the spatiotemporal propagation of frontal activity supports memory formation in children. Seventeen subjects (6.2 to 19.4 years) studied visual scenes in preparation for a recognition memory test while undergoing direct cortical monitoring. Earlier PFC activity predicted greater accuracy, and subsecond deviations in activity flow between subregions predicted memory formation. Activity flow between inferior and precentral sites was refined during adolescence, partially explaining gains in memory. In contrast, middle frontal activity predicted memory independent of age. These findings show with subsecond temporal precision that the developing PFC links scene perception and memory formation and underscore the role of the PFC in supporting memory development.

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