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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Apr 5;108(14):5783-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103225108. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

Different nonlinear functions in hippocampus and perirhinal cortex relating functional MRI activity to memory strength.

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Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Diego, CA 92161, USA.


Findings from functional MRI (fMRI) studies of recognition memory and the medial temporal lobe often suggest qualitative differences in the contribution of the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex. This interpretation is complicated by the fact that most of the methods intended to demonstrate qualitative differences also separate strong memories from weak memories. Thus, apparent qualitative differences might reflect quantitative differences in how measured activity in medial temporal lobe structures varies with memory strength. We tested the hypothesis that the relationship between activity at the time of study and subsequent memory strength is nonlinear in hippocampus and perirhinal cortex and also distinctly different in those two structures. We found that activity in the hippocampus was characterized by a positively accelerated function and that activity in the perirhinal cortex was associated with a statistically different, negatively accelerated function. Our results do not count against the possibility that these structures differ qualitatively in their contributions to memory. Rather, our findings show how an alternative interpretation based on quantitative differences can also account for a good deal of data, and they suggest that a demonstration of qualitative differences requires more stringent criteria than are achieved in most fMRI studies.

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