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Study Explores How Children's Brains Memorize Facts

Update Date: Aug 18, 2014 10:26 AM EDT

As we learn basic arithmetic, we gradually switch from solving problems by counting on fingers to pulling facts from the memory. A new study has the first evidence of how this transformation takes place. 

According to the study, a precisely orchestrated group of brain changes many involving the memory center (hippocampus) play an important role in the transformation. 

The brain-imaging research explains brain reorganization during normal development of cognitive skills. 

Findings of the study could serve as a point of comparison for the future studies of what goes awry in the brains of children with learning disability, the press release added. 

"We wanted to understand how children acquire new knowledge, and determine why some children learn to retrieve facts from memory better than others," Vinod Menon, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the senior author of the study, said in a press release. "This work provides insight into the dynamic changes that occur over the course of cognitive development in each child."

The study also analyzed how children's and adult's brain differentiated while solving maths problems. The study found that children used certain brain regions, such as hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, completely different from what adults used. 

"It was surprising to us that the hippocampal and prefrontal contributions to memory-based problem-solving during childhood don't look anything like what we would have expected for the adult brain," said postdoctoral scholar Shaozheng Qin, PhD, who is the paper's lead author.

The study is published in the Nature Neuroscience. 

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