Yana Fandakova, Silvia A. Bunge, Carter Wendelken, Peter Desautels, Lauren Hunter, Joshua K. Lee, Simona Ghetti; The Importance of Knowing When You Don't Remember: Neural Signaling of Retrieval Failure Predicts Memory Improvement Over Time. Cereb Cortex 2016 1-13. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw352
Just as the ability to remember prior events is critical for guiding our decision-making, so too is the ability to recognize the limitations of our memory. Indeed, we hypothesize that neural signaling of retrieval failure promotes more accurate memory judgments over time. To test this hypothesis, we collected longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging data from 8 to 9 years olds, 10 to 12 years olds, and adults, with two time points spaced approximately 1.4 years apart (198 scan sessions in total). Participants performed an episodic memory retrieval task in which they could either select a response or report uncertainty about the target memory detail. Children who engaged anterior insula more strongly during inaccurate or uncertain responses exhibited greater longitudinal increases in anterior prefrontal cortex activation for decisions to report uncertainty; both of these neural variables predicted improvements in episodic memory. Together, the results suggest that the brain processes supporting effective cognitive control and decision-making continue to develop in middle childhood and play an important role for memory development.