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Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(14):3000-10. Epub 2006 Aug 23.

Neural correlates of differential retrieval orientation: Sustained and item-related components.

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Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, and Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697-3800, USA.


Retrieval orientation refers to a cognitive state that biases processing of retrieval cues in service of a specific goal. The present study used a mixed fMRI design to investigate whether adoption of different retrieval orientations - as indexed by differences in the activity elicited by retrieval cues corresponding to unstudied items - is associated with differences in the state-related activity sustained across a block of test trials sharing a common retrieval goal. Subjects studied mixed lists comprising visually presented words and pictures. They then undertook a series of short test blocks in which all test items were visually presented words. The blocks varied according to whether the test items were used to cue retrieval of studied words or studied pictures. In several regions, neural activity elicited by correctly classified new items differed according to whether words or pictures were the targeted material. The loci of these effects suggest that one factor driving differential cue processing is modulation of the degree of overlap between cue and targeted memory representations. In addition to these item-related effects, neural activity sustained throughout the test blocks also differed according to the nature of the targeted material. These findings indicate that the adoption of different retrieval orientations is associated with distinct neural states. The loci of these sustained effects were distinct from those where new item activity varied, suggesting that the effects may play a role in biasing retrieval cue processing in favor of the current retrieval goal.

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