Brain Networks and Memory Development
We are who we are because of our unique memories. We start making memories as children, but the ability to form detailed, vivid memories of past events and experiences (episodic memory) continues to improve into young adulthood. But we still don’t fully understand how the maturation of the human brain supports and interacts with learning and memory during child development, or how atypical memory development relates to developmental disorders, such as autism.
Dr. Xiaoqian Chai, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, is investigating how different regions of the brain talk to each other during development and how they support memory as children grow into adults. Such a network-level approach is critical to understanding the complete picture of how memory develops in the brain, since memory processes involve coordinated activity from several large-scale networks in the brain.
Chai and her team are integrating cutting-edge multimodal imaging and behavioural and computational methods to tackle the complex dynamics of network interactions during the development of different memory processes. In addition to studying typical development, they are also investigating episodic memory systems in children with autism, since episodic memory is selectively affected in autism and may be related to social deficits.
Chai’s research will deliver new knowledge about how large-scale memory networks in the brain mature. Along with informing classroom learning strategies, this will also advance our understanding of memory abnormalities in autism. This knowledge may provide information that is critical for disease subtyping and for improving personalized interventions in memory and social deficits in autism.