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Poster B151

Cross-participant neural alignment of attentional states during encoding is linked to better memory in adults and children

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Sagana Vijayarajah1 (, Margaret Schlichting1; 1University of Toronto

Attending to specific details improves memory. Yet, whether different individuals enjoy such a memory boost through the same (cohesive) or different (idiosyncratic) neural means remains unknown. Here, participants (N=42 adults) attended to either specific (item) or general (category) aspects of scenes during fMRI scanning followed by a surprise recognition memory test. As expected, participants’ memories were more precise for item- than category-attended scenes. To understand the neural basis of this memory difference, we used a pattern similarity searchlight to identify regions that coded for attentional states at encoding (within > across state similarity). A widespread network of regions showed reliable state coding across the group, including frontoparietal, medial temporal, and lateral occipital cortices. Participants exhibited neural cohesion as a group, with individual differences in the degree of cross-participant alignment relating to memory for item-attended scenes. Given the protracted development of both attention and memory, we additionally investigated the emergence of such cohesion in children (N=42, 7-9 years), testing the competing possibilities that they would (a) exhibit their own unique, beneficial state, or (b) be idiosyncratic as a group and increasingly align with adults over maturation. Consistent with the latter, children showed no reliable cross-participant correspondence in attentional states. However, their alignment to adults increased with age and predicted memory for item-attended scenes. These findings suggest that a cohesive neural approach to detail orientation supports memory in adulthood. Development unfolds as children—initially each approaching the task in their own way—gradually adopt adult-like states across middle childhood, benefitting memory.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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