Memory-related hippocampal activation in the sleeping toddler

Janani Prabhakar, Elliott G. Johnson, Christine W Nordahl, Simona Ghetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Nonhuman research has implicated developmental processes within the hippocampus in the emergence and early development of episodic memory, but methodological challenges have hindered assessments of this possibility in humans. Here, we delivered a previously learned song and a novel song to 2-year-old toddlers during natural nocturnal sleep and, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, found that hippocampal activation was stronger for the learned song compared with the novel song. This was true regardless of whether the song was presented intact or backwards. Toddlers who remembered where and in the presence of which toy character they heard the song exhibited stronger hippocampal activation for the song. The results establish that hippocampal activation in toddlers reflects past experiences, persists despite some alteration of the stimulus, and is associated with behavior. This research sheds light on early hippocampal and memory functioning and offers an approach to interrogate the neural substrates of early memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6500-6505
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 19 2018


  • Early childhood development
  • Episodic memory
  • FMRI
  • Hippocampal development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Memory-related hippocampal activation in the sleeping toddler'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this