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Maturity Brings Richer Memories

Brain area associated with higher-order thinking is responsible, study finds

MONDAY, Aug. 6, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- While children and adults are similar when it comes to basic memory formation, adults create richer, more detailed contextual memories.

That's the conclusion of a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that included 49 people, ages 8 to 24.

The researchers said adults form richer memories because they have a more developed prefrontal cortex (PFC), an area of the brain associated with higher-order thinking, planning and reasoning.

"Activation in the PFC follows an upward slope with age in contextual memories. The older the subjects, the more powerful the activation in that area," senior author John Gabrieli, of MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research, department of brain and cognitive sciences, said in a prepared statement.

"This makes sense, because there's been a convergence of evidence that the PFC develops later than other brain regions, both functionally and structurally... But this is the first study that asks how this area matures and contributes to learning," Gabrieli said.

For this study, participants did memory exercises while their brain activity was recorded using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The researchers said their findings offer new information about how children learn.

The study was published in the Aug. 5 online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians discusses age-related memory loss.

SOURCE: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, news release, Aug. 5, 2007
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