Memories make up who we are as human beings. They create self-identity. They play a critical role in learning in the classroom. And they’re the basis of eyewitness testimony.
Yet there’s still so much we don’t know about memory, especially in children. It’s a critical research question that has led Dr. Thanujeni Pathman and a team of student researchers to study how brain development impacts memory in children at UNCG’s MDLab (Memory Development, Learning and Brain).
Pathman, an assistant professor in UNCG’s Department of Psychology, and her students use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memories. The researchers are interested in how age-related changes in the volume or size of subregions of the hippocampus may be related to different levels of memory accuracy.
“We know that there are age-related improvements in memory across childhood, and our lab is trying to find out about some of the factors that are driving that change,” Pathman said.
The project’s participants – children ages 7 to 11 – take part in different memory tasks and undergo an anatomical MRI scan, which allows Pathman and her team to examine brain structure.
Pathman’s research has real-world implications. For example, understanding how a child’s brain develops, and how this development relates to memory accuracy, helps investigators know what kind of information a child can accurately provide after witnessing a crime.
Not only is Pathman making important advances in the field, but she’s also developing future scientists.
“Most undergraduate students don’t realize research is a possibility,” she said. “Research experience helps develop so many skills. I’m really excited about passing that along.”
Learn more about UNCG’s MDLab in the video below.
Story by Jeanie McDowell and Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography and videography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications