Fragments of a larger whole: Retrieval cues constrain observed neural correlates of memory encoding

  • Otten L
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Laying down a new memory involves activity in a number of brain regions. Here, it is shown that the particular regions associated with successful encoding depend on the way in which memory is probed. Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging signals were acquired while subjects performed an incidental encoding task on a series of visually presented words denoting objects. A recognition memory test using the Remember/Know procedure to separate responses based on recollection and familiarity followed 1 day later. Critically, half of the studied objects were cued with a corresponding spoken word, and half with a corresponding picture. Regardless of cue, activity in prefrontal and hippocampal regions predicted subsequent recollection of a word. Type of retrieval cue modulated activity in prefrontal, temporal, and parietal cortices. Words subsequently recognized on the basis of a sense of familiarity were at study also associated with differential activity in a number of brain regions, some of which were probe dependent. Thus, observed neural correlates of successful encoding are constrained by type of retrieval cue, and are only fragments of all encoding-related neural activity. Regions exhibiting cue-specific effects may be sites that support memory through the degree of overlap between the processes engaged during encoding and those engaged during retrieval.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Encoding
  • Episodic memory
  • Recognition
  • Retrieval
  • Transfer-appropriate processing
  • fMRI

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  • Leun J. Otten

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