The “eyes have it,” but when in development? The importance of a developmental perspective in our understanding of behavioral memory formation and the hippocampus

Jamie O Edgin, Yating Liu, Katharine Hughes, Goffredina Spanò, Caron A.C. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Lynn Nadel has been a trailblazer in memory research for decades. In just one example, Nadel and Zola-Morgan [Infantile amnesia, In Infant memory, Springer, Boston, MA, 1984, pp. 145–172] were the first to present the provocative notion that the extended development of the hippocampus may underlie the period of infantile amnesia. In this special issue of Hippocampus to honor Lynn Nadel, we review some of his major contributions to the field of memory development, with an emphasis on his observations that behavioral memory assessments follow an uneven, yet protracted developmental course. We present data emphasizing this point from memory-related eye movements [Hannula & Ranganath, Neuron, 2009, 63(5), 592–599]. Eye tracking is a sensitive behavioral measure, allowing for an indication of memory function even without overt responses, which is seemingly ideal for the investigation of memory in early childhood or in other nonverbal populations. However, the behavioral manifestation of these eye movements follows a U-shaped trajectory—and one that must be understood before these indictors could be broadly used as a marker of memory. We examine the change in preferential looking time to target stimuli in school-aged children and adults, and compare these eye movement responses to explicit recall measures. Our findings indicate change in the nature and timing of these eye movements in older children, causing us to question how 6-month-old infants may produce eye movements that initially appear to have the same properties as those measured in adulthood. We discuss these findings in the context of our current understanding of memory development, particularly the period of infantile amnesia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • development
  • Down syndrome
  • eye-tracking
  • hippocampus
  • infantile amnesia
  • Lynn Nadel
  • memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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