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Improvement of allocentric spatial memory resolution in children from 2 to 4 years of age

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2015
Author Lambert Farfalla Ribordy, Lavenex Pierre, Lavenex Pamela Banta,
Project The development of spatial relational memory in children.
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Volume (Issue) 39(4)
Page(s) 318 - 331
DOI 10.1177/0165025415584808


Allocentric spatial memory, the memory for locations coded in relation to objects comprising our environment, is a fundamental component of episodic memory and is dependent on the integrity of the hippocampal formation in adulthood. Previous research from different laboratories reported that basic allocentric spatial memory abilities are reliably observed in children after two years of age. Based on work performed in monkeys and rats, we had proposed that the functional maturation of direct entorhinal cortex projections to the CA1 field of the hippocampus might underlie the emergence of basic allocentric spatial memory. We also proposed that the protracted development of the dentate gyrus and its projections to the CA3 field of the hippocampus might underlie the development of high-resolution allocentric spatial memory capacities, based on the essential contribution of these structures to the process known as pattern separation. Here, we present an experiment designed to assess the development of spatial pattern separation capacities and its impact on allocentric spatial memory performance in children from 18 to 48 months of age. We found that: (1) allocentric spatial memory performance improved with age, (2) as compared to younger children, a greater number of children older than 36 months advanced to the final stage requiring the highest degree of spatial resolution, and (3) children that failed at different stages exhibited difficulties in discriminating locations that required higher spatial resolution abilities. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that improvements in human spatial memory performance might be linked to improvements in pattern separation capacities.