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White Matter Tracts Connected to the Medial Temporal Lobe Support the Development of Mnemonic Control

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One of the most important factors driving the development of memory during childhood is mnemonic control, or the capacity to initiate and maintain the processes that guide encoding and retrieval operations. The ability to selectively attend to and encode relevant stimuli is a particularly useful form of mnemonic control, and is one that undergoes marked improvement over childhood. We hypothesized that structural integrity of white matter tracts, in particular those connecting medial temporal lobe memory regions to other cortical areas, and/or those connecting frontal and parietal control regions, should contribute to successful mnemonic control. To test this hypothesis, we examined the relationship between structural integrity of selected white matter tracts and an experimental measure of mnemonic control, involving enhancement of memory by attention at encoding, in 116 children aged 7-11 and 25 young adults. We observed a positive relationship between integrity of uncinate fasciculus and mnemonic enhancement across age groups. In adults, but not in children, we also observed an association between mnemonic enhancement and integrity of ventral cingulum bundle and ventral fornix/fimbria. Integrity of fronto-parietal tracts, including dorsal cingulum and superior longitudinal fasciculus, was unrelated to mnemonic enhancement.

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