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Memory Development Incomplete Until Adulthood: Study

Posted Sep 02 2011 1:00pm
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This is why courtroom suggestions can distort teens' remembrances, researchers say.

FRIDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The ability to remember the origin of memories isn't fully developed until adulthood, a new study says.

This ability refers not only to memories of past events but also to the origin of those memories -- for example, remembering not just meeting a particular person but the context in which you met that person, the German researchers explained.

They tested and monitored the brain activity of 18 children (ages 7-8), 20 teens (ages 13-14) and 20 young adults (ages 20-29) and found that the children were immature in terms of this ability.

There were similarities between the teens and the young adults, but only the young adults showed maturity in this area.

The findings, published Aug. 30 in the journal Child Development, suggest that the development of brain structures that support this ability is a long process that matures in adolescence but isn't fully developed until adulthood, the Saarland University researchers said in a journal news release.

"The study has important implications for people who take an interest in children's and adolescents' abilities to distinguish between multiple sources of memories," they noted. "Parents, teachers, and those who work in the legal system should be aware that adolescents' memories are still likely to be distorted by distracting memories, for example by suggestions when giving testimony."

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(SOURCE: Child Development, news release, Aug. 30, 2011)

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