Reward Enhances Memory via Age-Varying Online and Offline Neural Mechanisms across Development

Alexandra O. Cohen, Morgan M. Glover, Xinxu Shen, Camille V. Phaneuf, Kristen N. Avallone, Lila Davachi, Catherine A. Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reward motivation enhances memory through interactions between mesolimbic, hippocampal, and cortical systems, both during and after encoding. Developmental changes in these distributed neural circuits may lead to age-related differences in reward-motivated memory and the underlying neural mechanisms. Converging evidence from cross-species studies suggests that subcortical dopamine signaling is increased during adolescence, which may lead to stronger memory representations of rewarding, relative to mundane, events and changes in the contributions of underlying subcortical and cortical brain mechanisms across age. Here, we used fMRI to examine how reward motivation influences the “online” encoding and “offline” postencoding brain mechanisms that support long-term associative memory from childhood to adulthood in human participants of both sexes. We found that reward motivation led to both age-invariant enhancements and nonlinear age-related differences in associative memory after 24 h. Furthermore, reward-related memory benefits were linked to age-varying neural mechanisms. During encoding, interactions between the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and ventral tegmental area (VTA) were associated with better high-reward memory to a greater degree with increasing age. Preencoding to postencoding changes in functional connectivity between the anterior hippocampus and VTA were also associated with better high-reward memory, but more so at younger ages. Our findings suggest that there may be developmental differences in the contributions of offline subcortical and online cortical brain mechanisms supporting reward-motivated memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6424-6434
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 17 2022


  • associative memory
  • development
  • functional connectivity
  • mesolimbic system
  • motivation
  • reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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