What is childhood amnesia?

Pro Search

3 steps completed
Answer
Childhood amnesia, also known as infantile amnesia, refers to the inability of adults to retrieve episodic memories (memories of situations or events) from before the age of two to four years. It can also refer to the scarcity or fragmentation of memories from early childhood, particularly between the ages of 2 and 6. This period of fragmented memory typically fades around the age of 4.7 years. Around the ages of 5-6, autobiographical memory seems to stabilize and align with adult levels. The development of a cognitive self is thought to influence the encoding and storing of early memories1. One possible explanation for childhood amnesia is the lack of neurological development of the infant brain, which may prevent the creation of long-term or autobiographical memories. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, two key structures in the neuroanatomy of memory, do not develop into mature structures until around the age of three or four. These structures are associated with the formation of autobiographical memories1. Research has shown that children can remember events from before the age of two, but these memories may decline as children get older. By the age of eleven, children exhibit young adult levels of childhood amnesia. This suggests that there may be aspects of the adolescent brain, or the neurobiological processes of adolescence, that prompt the development of childhood amnesia1. Interestingly, some early memories are more likely than others to survive childhood amnesia. For instance, a memory that carries a lot of emotion is more likely to persist. Parents also play a significant role in what a child remembers. Research shows that when a parent helps a child give shape and structure and context to a memory, it's less likely to fade away2. It's also important to note that for memories to become autobiographical, or part of the child's life story and real to them, there must first be a developed sense of self and personal identity. Children do not fully develop a sense of self until typically around 1 ½ or 2 years of age. Having a sense of self, the "I" separate from others, gives a place for memory to be organized and develop personal meaning3. In conclusion, childhood amnesia is a complex phenomenon that is influenced by a variety of factors, including neurological development, the formation of a cognitive self, and the role of parents in shaping and structuring early memories.
what are some theories about the causes of childhood amnesia

Pro Search

3 steps completed
Answer
There are several theories about the causes of childhood amnesia, which is the inability to recall episodic memories from early childhood, particularly before the age of 2-4 years. Some of the main theories include:
  1. Neurological development: One possible explanation is the lack of neurological development in the infant brain, which may prevent the creation of long-term or autobiographical memories. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, two key structures in the neuroanatomy of memory, do not develop into mature structures until around the age of three or four2.
  2. Language development: Another theory suggests that childhood amnesia could be partly explained by difficulties with verbally recalling memories that were encoded before language acquisition. The majority of words are acquired between the age of 2 years and 6 months and 4 years and 6 months, which coincides with the time period when the earliest memories can be recalled2.
  3. Neurogenesis: According to the neurogenic hypothesis, high levels of postnatal neurogenesis (the continuous adding of new neurons) in the hippocampus prevent the creation of long-lasting memories. This hypothesis has been experimentally tested in animal models, and the findings suggest that high levels of neurogenesis jeopardize the formation of long-term memories, possibly by replacing synapses in pre-existing memory circuits2.
  4. Memory retrieval or storage failure: Some researchers believe that it is unclear whether childhood amnesia occurs due to the failure of memory retrieval or failure of their storage. Forgetting might be described as a linear function of the time passing since the event, but some researchers disagree, as they have found that subjects recall far fewer memories for events occurring between the age of 6 and 7 than would be expected by simply extrapolating the forgetting curve2.
In conclusion, childhood amnesia is a complex phenomenon with multiple possible causes, including neurological development, language development, neurogenesis, and memory retrieval or storage failure. More research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms of childhood amnesia.
Related
how does the hippocampus contribute to childhood amnesia
what is the difference between infantile and childhood amnesia
how does language development affect childhood amnesia