Neuronal oscillations reveal the processes underlying intentional compared to incidental learning in children and young adults
by Moritz Köster, André Haese, Daniela CzernochowskiThis EEG study investigated the neuronal processes during intentional compared to incidental learning in young adults and two groups of children aged 10 and 7 years. Theta (3–8 Hz) and alpha (10–16 Hz) neuronal oscillations were analyzed to compare encoding processes during an intentional and an incidental encoding task. In all three age groups, both encoding conditions were associated with an increase in event-related theta activity. Encoding-related alpha suppression increased with age. Memory performance was higher in the intentional compared to the incidental task in all age groups. Furthermore, intentional learning was associated with an improved encoding of perceptual features, which were relevant for the retrieval phase. Theta activity increased from incidental to intentional encoding. Specifically, frontal theta increased in all age groups, while parietal theta increased only in adults and older children. In younger children, parietal theta was similarly high in both encoding phases. While alpha suppression may reflect semantic processes during encoding, increased theta activity during intentional encoding may indicate perceptual binding processes, in accordance with the demands of the encoding task. Higher encoding-related alpha suppression in the older age groups, together with age differences in parietal theta activity during incidental learning in young children, is in line with recent theoretical accounts, emphasizing the role of perceptual processes in mnemonic processing in young children, whereas semantic encoding processes continue to mature throughout middle childhood.
Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article
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