Retrieval demands adaptively change striatal old/new signals and boost subsequent long-term memory

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The striatum is a central part of the dopaminergic mesolimbic system and contributes both to the encoding and retrieval of long-term memories. In this regard, the co-occurrence of striatal novelty and retrieval success effects in independent studies underlines the structure’s double duty and suggests dynamic contextual adaptation. To test this hypothesis and further investigate the underlying mechanisms of encoding and retrieval dynamics, human subjects viewed pre-familiarized scene images intermixed with new scenes and classified them as indoor versus outdoor (encoding task) or old versus new (retrieval task), while fMRI and eye tracking data were recorded. Subsequently, subjects performed a final recognition task. As hypothesized, striatal activity and pupil size reflected task-conditional salience of old and new stimuli, but, unexpectedly, this effect was not reflected in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA), medial temporal lobe, or subsequent memory performance. Instead, subsequent memory generally benefitted from retrieval, an effect possibly driven by task difficulty and activity in a network including different parts of the striatum and SN/VTA. Our findings extend memory models of encoding and retrieval dynamics by pinpointing a specific contextual factor that differentially modulates the functional properties of the mesolimbic system.




Herweg, N. A., Sommer, T., & Bunzeck, N. (2018). Retrieval demands adaptively change striatal old/new signals and boost subsequent long-term memory. Journal of Neuroscience, 38(3), 745–754.

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