Despite the importance of learning and remembering across the lifespan, little is known about how the episodic memory system develops to support the extraction of associative structure from the environment. Here, we relate individual differences in volumes along the hippocampal long axis to performance on statistical learning and associative inference tasks—both of which require encoding associations that span multiple episodes—in a developmental sample ranging from ages 6 to 30 years. Relating age to volume, we found dissociable patterns across the hippocampal long axis, with opposite non-linear volume changes in the head and body. These structural differences were paralleled by performance gains across the age range on both tasks, suggesting improvements in the crossepisode binding ability from childhood to adulthood. Controlling for age, we also found that smaller hippocampal heads were associated with superior behavioral performance on both tasks, consistent with this region’s hypothesized role in forming generalized codes spanning events. Collectively, these results highlight the importance of examining hippocampal development as a function of position along the hippocampal axis and suggest that the hippocampal head is particularly important in encoding associative structure across development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience