Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is an established eloquent cortex mapping technique that is now an integral part of the pre-operative work-up in candidates for epilepsy surgery. Emerging evidence in adults with epilepsy suggests that material-specific fMRI paradigms can predict postoperative memory outcomes, however these paradigms are not suitable for children. In pediatric age, the use of memory fMRI paradigms designed for adults is complicated by the effect of developmental stages in cognitive maturation, the impairment experienced by some people with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and the normal representation of memory function during development, which may differ from adults. We present a memory fMRI paradigm designed to activate mesial temporal lobe structures that is brief, independent of reading ability, and therefore a novel candidate for use in children. Data from 33 adults and 19 children (all healthy controls) show that the paradigm captures the expected leftward asymmetry of mesial temporal activation in adults. A more symmetrical pattern was observed in children, consistent with the progressive emergence of hemispheric specialisation across childhood. These data have important implications for the interpretation of presurgical memory fMRI in the pediatric setting. They also highlight the need to carefully consider the impact of cognitive development on fMRI tools used in clinical practice.
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