Recent theories of episodic memory (EM) posit that the hippocampus provides a spatiotemporal framework necessary for representing events. If such theories hold true, then does the development of EM in children depend on the ability to first bind spatial and temporal information? And does this ability rely, at least in part, on normal hippocampal function? We investigated the development of EM in children 2-8 years of age (Study 1) and its impairment in Williams Syndrome, a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by visuospatial deficits and irregular hippocampal function, (Study 2) by implementing a nonverbal object-placement task that dissociates the what, where, and when components of EM. Consistent with the spatiotemporal-framework view of hippocampal EM, our results indicate that the binding of where and when in memory emerges earliest in development, around the age of 3, and is specifically impaired in WS. Space-time binding both preceded and was critical to full EM (what + where + when), and the successful association of objects to spatial locations seemed to mediate this developmental process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas