Improved memory functioning and frontal lobe maturation between childhood and adolescence: a structural MRI study

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2001 Mar;7(3):312-22. doi: 10.1017/s135561770173305x.


Previous studies conducted by our group have provided evidence for age-related reductions in cortical thickness in dorsal frontal and parietal regions between childhood and adulthood, and gray matter volume increases of mesial temporal and anterior diencephalic structures. The purpose of this study was to describe neurobehavioral correlates of these brain maturational changes using morphometric analyses of brain magnetic resonance images (MRI) and two tests of cognitive abilities. Participants were 35 normal children roughly stratified by age (7 to 16 years) and sex (20 boys and 15 girls) and frontal and mesial temporal regions were anatomically defined in each subjects' MRI data. The California Verbal Learning Test-Children's Version and the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure test were used as measures of verbal and visuospatial memory and organizational abilities. Analyses designed to show regionally specific relationships between the brain and behavioral measures revealed interesting results. Specifically, frontal lobe gray matter thinning was more strongly predictive of delayed verbal memory functioning than was the mesial temporal lobe gray matter volume, and this relationship did not appear to be mediated by factors indexed in chronological age. Similar, but less regionally specific relationships were observed for measures of visuospatial memory abilities and frontal lobe maturation. Functional imaging studies in the literature consistently report activation in frontal regions in adults during retrieval tasks. The relationship between frontal lobe maturation and delayed recall observed here may be reflective of the children's development towards the more adult-like frontal lobe function revealed in the functional imaging studies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / growth & development*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*