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Scientific article
Open access
English

Decoding the content of working memory in school-aged children

Published inCortex, vol. 171, p. 136-152
First online date2023-11-07
Abstract

Developmental improvements in working memory (WM) maintenance predict many realworld outcomes, including educational attainment. It is thus critical to understand which WM mechanisms support these behavioral improvements, and how WM maintenance strategies might change through development. One challenge is that specific WM neural mechanisms cannot easily be measured behaviorally, especially in a child population. However, new multivariate decoding techniques have been designed, primarily in adult populations, that can sensitively decode the contents of WM. The goal of this study was to deploy multivariate decoding techniques known to decode memory representations in adults to decode the contents of WM in children. We created a simple computerized WM game for children, in which children maintained different categories of information (visual, spatial or verbal). We collected electroencephalography (EEG) data from 20 children (7-12-year-olds) while they played the game. Using Multivariate Pattern Analysis (MVPA) on children's EEG signals, we reliably decoded the category of the maintained information during the sensory and maintenance period. Across exploratory reliability and validity analyses, we examined the robustness of these results when trained on less data, and how these patterns generalized within individuals throughout the testing session. Furthermore, these results matched theory-based predictions of WM across individuals and across ages. Our proof-of-concept study proposes a direct and age-appropriate potential alternative to exclusively behavioral WM maintenance measures in children. Our study demonstrates the utility of MVPA to measure and track the uninstructed representational content of children's WM. Future research could use our technique to investigate children's WM maintenance and strategies.

eng
Keywords
  • Short-term memory
  • Multivariate pattern analyses
  • Child development
Citation (ISO format)
TUROMAN, Nora et al. Decoding the content of working memory in school-aged children. In: Cortex, 2023, vol. 171, p. 136–152. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2023.10.019
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Article (Accepted version)
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ISSN of the journal0010-9452
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