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Neuropsychologia. 1999 May;37(5):567-87.

Dynamic changes in the functional anatomy of the human brain during recall of abstract designs related to practice.

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Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.


In the present PET study we explore some functional aspects of the interaction between attentional/control processes and learning/memory processes. The network of brain regions supporting recall of abstract designs were studied in a less practiced and in a well practiced state. The results indicate that automaticity, i.e., a decreased dependence on attentional and working memory resources, develops as a consequence of practice. This corresponds to the practice related decreases of activity in the prefrontal, anterior cingulate, and posterior parietal regions. In addition, the activity of the medial temporal regions decreased as a function of practice. This indicates an inverse relation between the strength of encoding and the activation of the MTL during retrieval. Furthermore, the pattern of practice related increases in the auditory, posterior insular-opercular extending into perisylvian supramarginal region, and the right mid occipito-temporal region, may reflect a lower degree of inhibitory attentional modulation of task irrelevant processing and more fully developed representations of the abstract designs, respectively. We also suggest that free recall is dependent on bilateral prefrontal processing, in particular non-automatic free recall. The present results confirm previous functional neuroimaging studies of memory retrieval indicating that recall is subserved by a network of interacting brain regions. Furthermore, the results indicate that some components of the neural network subserving free recall may have a dynamic role and that there is a functional restructuring of the information processing networks during the learning process.

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