For a study, the researchers aimed to replicate the adult findings in typically developing (TD) children and investigate the relevance to behavioral flexibility by examining a disorder with pathognomonic behavioral rigidity, autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Conceptual knowledge frameworks termed schemas facilitate memory formation and support flexible behavior. As reported in adults, episodic memory was the strongest for schema-congruent object-scene pairs, followed by intermediate pairs, and lowest for schema-incongruent pairs in both TD and ASD groups. However, the trade-off between mPFC and medical temporal lobe (MTL) in TD children differed from adult reports such that mPFC supported memory for intermediate schema-congruency and left anterior MTL supported memory for schema-congruent pairs. In ASD, mPFC engagement interacted with flexibility such that activation keeping memory for intermediate schema-congruence varied with parent-reported flexibility and was higher in those with more flexible behavior. A similar interaction was also observed in both the left dorsolateral and rostrolateral PFC in whole-brain analysis. The researchers provided the first preliminary evidence for the association of schema-based episodic memory formation and behavioral flexibility and executive function impaired in multiple developmental disorders. Upon replication, the line of research holds promise for memory-based interventions addressing organizational problems of behavioral rigidity.
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