Alison Preston, The University of Texas at Austin
Abstract: Everyday behaviors require a high degree of flexibility, in which prior experience is applied to inform behavior in new situations. Such flexibility is thought to be supported by memory integration, a process whereby related experiences become interconnected in the brain through recruitment of overlapping neuronal populations. In this talk, I will discuss our work demonstrating that memory integration relies on hippocampal–prefrontal circuitry and allows for acquisition of new knowledge beyond what we directly experience. I will show how such knowledge is flexibly deployed to promote new learning and higher-level cognitive functions such as reasoning and concept formation. I will also discuss developmental data exploring the relationship between maturation of hippocampal-prefrontal circuitry and the emergence of reasoning ability. I will show that children and adolescents are less likely to link new experiences to their existing memories, which results in reduced accuracy when they are asked to infer relationships among distinct events.