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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2009 Feb;91(2):139-54. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2008.10.011. Epub 2008 Dec 11.

Posterior parietal cortex and episodic encoding: insights from fMRI subsequent memory effects and dual-attention theory.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2130, USA.


The formation of episodic memories--memories for life events--is affected by attention during event processing. A leading neurobiological model of attention posits two separate yet interacting systems that depend on distinct regions in lateral posterior parietal cortex (PPC). From this dual-attention perspective, dorsal PPC is thought to support the goal-directed allocation of attention, whereas ventral PPC is thought to support reflexive orienting to information that automatically captures attention. To advance understanding of how parietal mechanisms may impact event encoding, we review functional MRI studies that document the relationship between lateral PPC activation during encoding and subsequent memory performance (e.g., later remembering or forgetting). This review reveals that (a) encoding-related activity is frequently observed in human lateral PPC, (b) increased activation in dorsal PPC is associated with later memory success, and (c) increased activation in ventral PPC predominantly correlates with later memory failure. From a dual-attention perspective, these findings suggest that allocating goal-directed attention during event processing increases the probability that the event will be remembered later, whereas the capture of reflexive attention during event processing may have negative consequences for event encoding. The prevalence of encoding-related activation in parietal cortex suggests that neurobiological models of episodic memory should consider how parietal-mediated attentional mechanisms regulate encoding.

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