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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2007 Apr;17(2):171-6. Epub 2007 Feb 15.

Reductions in cortical activity during priming.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Athinoula A Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02138, USA.


Priming is a nonconscious form of memory in which an encounter with a stimulus influences the subsequent identification, production or classification of the same or a related stimulus. Neuroimaging studies have revealed that behavioral priming is typically accompanied by reduced activity in several cortical regions. We review recent studies that have concerned two key issues. First, specificity effects produced by changes between study and test in either the physical features of stimuli or the behavioral response reveal cortical sensitivity to the perceptual, conceptual and stimulus-to-decision mapping properties of primed items. Second, correlations between behavioral priming and activity reductions are robust across a range of tasks and procedures in prefrontal regions but not in posterior regions. On the basis of these recent studies, we suggest that the reduction in cortical activity during priming involves at least two different mechanisms.

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