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Exp Brain Res. 1999 Oct;128(3):332-42.

Neuronal correlates of encoding and retrieval in episodic memory during a paired-word association learning task: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.

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Department of Nuclear Medicine, Heinrich-Heine University Hospital, Moorenstrasse 5, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany,


The investigation of memory function using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is an expanding field of research. The aim of this study was to demonstrate brain-activity patterns related to a word-pair association task employing a whole-brain EPI sequence. Six right-handed, healthy male volunteers (mean age: 27.5 years) took part in the study. fMRI was performed at a field strength of 1. 5 Tesla with 26-32 slices parallel to the AC-PC line, depending on individual brain size. Distributed brain regions were activated in episodic encoding and retrieval with similarities, but also (distinct) differences in activation patterns. Bilateral prefrontal cortical areas were involved when comparing encoding as well as retrieval to the reference condition (nonsense words). Furthermore, activation was observed in cerebellar areas during encoding, and activation in bilateral parietal areas (precuneus and inferior parietal cortex) was differentially more pronounced during retrieval. The activation of left dorsomedial thalamus during retrieval of high imagery-content word-pair associates may point to the role of this structure in episodic retrieval. The direct cognitive subtraction of encoding minus retrieval yielded a differentially larger left prefrontal activation. There was a differentially higher right prefrontal activation during retrieval than during encoding, underlining the proposed right/left asymmetry for episodic memory processes.

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