Article | Published:

Hippocampal-neocortical functional reorganization underlies children's cognitive development

Nature Neuroscience volume 17, pages 12631269 (2014) | Download Citation

  • An Erratum to this article was published on 25 November 2015

This article has been updated

Abstract

The importance of the hippocampal system for rapid learning and memory is well recognized, but its contributions to a cardinal feature of children's cognitive development—the transition from procedure-based to memory-based problem-solving strategies—are unknown. Here we show that the hippocampal system is pivotal to this strategic transition. Longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 7–9-year-old children revealed that the transition from use of counting to memory-based retrieval parallels increased hippocampal and decreased prefrontal-parietal engagement during arithmetic problem solving. Longitudinal improvements in retrieval-strategy use were predicted by increased hippocampal-neocortical functional connectivity. Beyond childhood, retrieval-strategy use continued to improve through adolescence into adulthood and was associated with decreased activation but more stable interproblem representations in the hippocampus. Our findings provide insights into the dynamic role of the hippocampus in the maturation of memory-based problem solving and establish a critical link between hippocampal-neocortical reorganization and children's cognitive development.

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Change history

  • 04 June 2015

    In the version of this article initially published, the second set of hippocampal coordinates in the fourth Results section was given as (−26,−22,−1). The correct coordinates are (−26,−22,−16). The error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by grants from US National Institutes of Health (HD047520, HD059205 and MH101394), Child Health Research Institute at Stanford University, Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health and Stanford CTAS (UL1RR025744) and Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO446.10.010).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.

    • Shaozheng Qin
    • , Soohyun Cho
    • , Tianwen Chen
    • , Miriam Rosenberg-Lee
    •  & Vinod Menon
  2. Department of Psychology, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, South Korea.

    • Soohyun Cho
  3. Department of Psychological Sciences, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, University of Missouri, Columbia Missouri, USA.

    • David C Geary
  4. Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences & Program of Neuroscience, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.

    • Vinod Menon

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Contributions

S.Q. and V.M. designed research; S.Q., S.C., T.C. and M.R.-L. performed research; S.Q. and T.C. analyzed data; S.Q., D.C.G. and V.M. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Shaozheng Qin or Vinod Menon.

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    Supplementary Figures 1–9, Supplementary Results and Supplementary Tables 1–9

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3788

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