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Keywords:

  • Learning;
  • memory;
  • neuropsychiatry;
  • psychopathologies;
  • hippocampus;
  • striatum;
  • basal ganglia;
  • anxiety;
  • stress

Extensive evidence indicates that mammalian memory is organized into multiple brains systems, including a ‘cognitive’ memory system that depends on the hippocampus and a stimulus-response ‘habit’ memory system that depends on the dorsolateral striatum. Dorsal striatal-dependent habit memory may in part influence the development and expression of some human psychopathologies, particularly those characterized by strong habit-like behavioral features. The present review considers this hypothesis as it pertains to psychopathologies that typically emerge during childhood and adolescence. These disorders include Tourette syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and autism spectrum disorders. Human and nonhuman animal research shows that the typical development of memory systems comprises the early maturation of striatal-dependent habit memory and the relatively late maturation of hippocampal-dependent cognitive memory. We speculate that the differing rates of development of these memory systems may in part contribute to the early emergence of habit-like symptoms in childhood and adolescence. In addition, abnormalities in hippocampal and striatal brain regions have been observed consistently in youth with these disorders, suggesting that the aberrant development of memory systems may also contribute to the emergence of habit-like symptoms as core pathological features of these illnesses. Considering these disorders within the context of multiple memory systems may help elucidate the pathogenesis of habit-like symptoms in childhood and adolescence, and lead to novel treatments that lessen the habit-like behavioral features of these disorders.