Temple Infant & Child Laboratory | Memory Research
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Memory Research

Overview: Memory for Events


Episodic memory allows us to remember specific events in the past, such as high school graduation or dinner with a friend last week. This type of memory changes dramatically in early childhood, with infants and young children having almost no episodic memories, then a gradual improvement during the elementary school years. Our laboratory is doing NIH-funded research to tease apart the early building blocks of this memory system.


This work is supported by two grants from the NIH:

  • Mapping the Development of Episodic Memory (R01 HD099165) awarded to Nora Newcombe
  • Between Encoding and Retrieval: Behavioral and Neural Indices of Reactivation in Children’s Memory Development (R21 HD098509) awarded to Ingrid Olson


Nora Newcombe

In addition to cognitive development and spatial navigation, one of Dr. Newcombe’s primary research interests is the development of memory. Several of our ongoing studies (listed below in “Ongoing Research”) explore how episodic memory evolves in early childhood.


Ingrid Olson

Much of our ongoing memory research is being done in conjunction with Temple’s Cognitive Neuroscience laboratory, directed by Dr. Ingrid Olson. Dr. Olson’s lab studies memory, decision making, social cognition, and the intersection of these processes.
To learn more about the Cognitive Neuroscience lab, click here 

Ongoing Research

Home Sweet Home


Ages: 3 – 8 years

Location: Philadelphia (Main) or Ambler campus

How do children apply their learning to new situations? To find out, we’re recruiting typically developing children ages 3 – 8 for the Home Sweet Home Study. Children will play a fun computer game where they will be asked to learn where different animals live in an imaginary land. You and your child will be compensated for this 1-hour study (including breaks and snacks) with a gift card and your child will get to pick out a toy or sticker!



Animal Sounds


Ages: 4 – 8 years

Location: Online (via Zoom)

How do children aged 4, 6, and 8 years form memories by associating animal sounds with visual stimuli? In a 30-minute online session via Zoom our child will see a pair of animal pictures and sounds, and then we will test if your child remembers those pictures, sounds, and pairs of them. As a token of our appreciation, each child who takes part in the study will receive a $10 Amazon gift card.


Marvelous Moments


Ages: 4 – 7  years

Location: Philadelphia (Main)

How do children learn to remember, and what does that look like in the developing brain? To find out, we are recruiting 4-7-year olds to follow over a year of their life as they develop and change. For this study, you and your child will make a visit to our lab twice, and then twice again for the next two years. Your child will watch cartoons, talk about things they’ve done recently, play memory games, and receive an MRI scan. You and your child will be compensated with a $50 gift card for each 1.5 – 2 hour session (including breaks and snacks) and your child will also receive toys and a picture of their brain!

Past Work

1. Generalized vs. Specific Memory Across Development

2. Memory After a Delay

3. Filling In the Whole Memory Picture

4. Keeping Similar Memories Separate

5. Piecing Together the Details of Memory

Remembering a specific past event requires piecing together the details of memory, such as the people we met, the objects we found, and where the event took place. This ability may be the foundation for how we can remember rich events from our own lives (called “autobiographical memory) and how we can use knowledge easily in new situations. Because piecing together memory details is so important for episodic memory, we have studied children’s abilities to glue together items in memory, such as grouping similar objects, or making the connection between a person, an object, and the context. In general, children younger than 4 have difficulty with this skill, which may be why their overall episodic memory isn’t very good! However, children’s ability to create what we call “associative” memories by piecing together the details of memory seems to improve noticeably during childhood.

In two recent studies, we tested how 4- and 6-year old children could match object-object associations to a specific place using fun animations. Four-year-old children couldn’t do this as well as 6-year-old children, but 6-year-olds performed similar to young adults! For more details, see the linked paper.


Ngo, C. T.*, Lin, Y.*, Newcombe, N. S., & Olson, I. R. (2019). Building up and wearing down episodic memory: Mnemonic discrimination and relational binding. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General148(9), 1463.


Video: Getting Your First MRI at TUBRIC!

What is MRI and is it safe?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio waves to take high-resolution pictures of the inside of your body. An MRI scan doesn’t use radiation to produce images so it’s very safe (unlike a CT scan or X-ray) and painless. Since MRIs use strong magnets, we do need to make sure there’s no ferrous (=iron based) metal in or on your child. Teeth fillings are okay; metal wires in hair extensions are not okay.

What is it like to get an MRI?

The MRI scanner is like a long donut. Your child will lie in the middle of the donut on a movable bed. We will make sure they are comfortable and cozy. After the bed slowly slides into the machine, we will go to the neighboring room which has a window and an an intercom so we can watch and talk to your child throughout the process. Your child will be given a special squeeze ball so they can signal that they need their attention. Then, the machine will take many pictures of your child’s brain, each of which will take a few minutes. MRI’s are very sensitive to motion, so your child will be asked to stay extra still during the session to help us take the best quality pictures. We’ll make sure to practice with them in a pretend scanner first, to help them get used to the process!

Because the MRI scanner will make all sorts of loud noises during the session, your child will be given earplugs and/or headphones to block out the noises. This is how they’ll know when the pictures are being taken!

When the scan is finished, a member of the research staff will help your child get up from the bed and let you both know if there is anything more to do for that session.


For more information, visit the Temple University Brain Imaging Center (TUBRIC) Participant Portal.