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Contribution of Embodiment to Solving the Riddle of Infantile Amnesia

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      At least since the late nineteenth century, researchers have sought an explanation for infantile amnesia (IA)—the lack of autobiographical memories dating from early childhood—and childhood amnesia (CA), faster forgetting of events up until the age of about seven. Evidence suggests that IA occurs across altricial species, and a number of studies using animal models have converged on the hypothesis that maturation of the hippocampus is an important factor. But why does the hippocampus mature at one time and not another, and how does that maturation relate to memory? Our hypothesis is rooted in theories of embodied cognition, and it provides an explanation both for hippocampal development and the end of IA. Specifically, the onset of locomotion prompts the alignment of hippocampal place cells and grid cells to the environment, which in turn facilitates the ontogeny of long-term episodic memory and the end of IA. That is, because the animal can now reliably discriminate locations, location becomes a stable cue for memories. Furthermore, as the mode of human locomotion shifts from crawling to walking, there is an additional shift in the alignment of the hippocampus that marks the beginning of adult-like episodic memory and the end of CA. Finally, given a reduction in self-locomotion and exploration with aging, the hypothesis suggests a partial explanation for cognitive decline with aging.

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      Most cited references 29

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      Microstructure of a spatial map in the entorhinal cortex.

      The ability to find one's way depends on neural algorithms that integrate information about place, distance and direction, but the implementation of these operations in cortical microcircuits is poorly understood. Here we show that the dorsocaudal medial entorhinal cortex (dMEC) contains a directionally oriented, topographically organized neural map of the spatial environment. Its key unit is the 'grid cell', which is activated whenever the animal's position coincides with any vertex of a regular grid of equilateral triangles spanning the surface of the environment. Grids of neighbouring cells share a common orientation and spacing, but their vertex locations (their phases) differ. The spacing and size of individual fields increase from dorsal to ventral dMEC. The map is anchored to external landmarks, but persists in their absence, suggesting that grid cells may be part of a generalized, path-integration-based map of the spatial environment.
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        The emergence of autobiographical memory: a social cultural developmental theory.

        The authors present a multicomponent dynamic developmental theory of human autobiographical memory that emerges gradually across the preschool years. The components that contribute to the process of emergence include basic memory abilities, language and narrative, adult memory talk, temporal understanding, and understanding of self and others. The authors review the empirical developmental evidence within each of these components to show how each contributes to the timing, quantity, and quality of personal memories from the early years of life. The authors then consider the relevance of the theory to explanations of childhood amnesia and how the theory accounts for and predicts the complex findings on adults' earliest memories, including individual, gender, and cultural differences.
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          The cognitive neuroscience of remote episodic, semantic and spatial memory.

          The processes and mechanisms implicated in retention and retrieval of memories as they age is an enduring problem in cognitive neuroscience. Research from lesion and functional neuroimaging studies on remote episodic, semantic and spatial memory in humans is crucial for evaluating three theories of hippocampal and/or medial temporal lobe-neocortical interaction in memory retention and retrieval: cognitive map theory, standard consolidation theory and multiple trace theory. Each theory makes different predictions regarding first, the severity and extent of retrograde amnesia following lesions to some or all of the structures mentioned; second, the extent of activation of these structures to retrieval of memory across time; and third, the type of memory being retrieved. Each of these theories has strengths and weaknesses, and there are various unresolved issues. We propose a unified account based on multiple trace theory. This theory states that the hippocampus is needed for re-experiencing detailed episodic and spatial memories no matter how old they are, and that it contributes to the formation and assimilation of semantic memories and schematic spatial maps.

            Author and article information

            1Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ, USA
            2Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison WI, USA
            3Simpson College, Indianola IA, USA
            Author notes

            Edited by: Anna M. Borghi, University of Bologna and Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Italy

            Reviewed by: Sascha Topolinski, University of Cologne, Germany; Malte Schilling, International Computer Science Institute, USA

            *Correspondence: Arthur M. Glenberg, glenberg@

            This article was submitted to Cognition, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

            Front Psychol
            Front Psychol
            Front. Psychol.
            Frontiers in Psychology
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            25 January 2016
            : 7
            Copyright © 2016 Glenberg and Hayes.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

            Figures: 0, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 29, Pages: 6, Words: 0
            Funded by: National Science Foundation 10.13039/100000001
            Award ID: 1324807
            Award ID: 1020367
            Hypothesis and Theory


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