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Neuropsychologia. 2005;43(6):847-59. Epub 2004 Dec 7.

The neural origins of specific and general memory: the role of the fusiform cortex.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Recognition of an object can be based on memory for specific details of a prior encounter with the object, or on a more general memory for the type of object previously encountered. Responding on the basis of general information alone can sometimes produce memory errors involving both distortion and forgetting, but little is known about the neural origins of general versus specific recognition. We extended the standard subsequent memory paradigm to examine whether neural activity at encoding predicts whether an object will subsequently elicit specific as compared to general memory. During event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), participants viewed objects and made size judgments about them. Later, they viewed same, similar, and new objects, labeling each as "same," "similar," or "new." Specific recognition was indicated by a "same" response to a same object. By contrast, general, non-specific recognition was indicated by either a "same" response to a similar object (false memory) or a "similar" response to a same object (partial memory). As predicted, specific recognition, as compared to non-specific recognition, was associated with encoding-related activity in the right fusiform cortex, while non-specific recognition, as compared to forgetting, was associated with encoding-related activity in the left fusiform cortex. Furthermore, all successful recognition (specific and general), as compared to forgetting, was associated with encoding-related activity in bilateral fusiform cortex. These results suggest that the right fusiform cortex is associated with specific feature encoding, while the left fusiform cortex is involved in more general object encoding.

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