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Neuropsychologia. 2012 Mar;50(4):458-69. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.09.002. Epub 2011 Sep 8.

Multi-voxel patterns of visual category representation during episodic encoding are predictive of subsequent memory.

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.


Successful encoding of episodic memories is thought to depend on contributions from prefrontal and temporal lobe structures. Neural processes that contribute to successful encoding have been extensively explored through univariate analyses of neuroimaging data that compare mean activity levels elicited during the encoding of events that are subsequently remembered vs. those subsequently forgotten. Here, we applied pattern classification to fMRI data to assess the degree to which distributed patterns of activity within prefrontal and temporal lobe structures elicited during the encoding of word-image pairs were diagnostic of the visual category (Face or Scene) of the encoded image. We then assessed whether representation of category information was predictive of subsequent memory. Classification analyses indicated that temporal lobe structures contained information robustly diagnostic of visual category. Information in prefrontal cortex was less diagnostic of visual category, but was nonetheless associated with highly reliable classifier-based evidence for category representation. Critically, trials associated with greater classifier-based estimates of category representation in temporal and prefrontal regions were associated with a higher probability of subsequent remembering. Finally, consideration of trial-by-trial variance in classifier-based measures of category representation revealed positive correlations between prefrontal and temporal lobe representations, with the strength of these correlations varying as a function of the category of image being encoded. Together, these results indicate that multi-voxel representations of encoded information can provide unique insights into how visual experiences are transformed into episodic memories.

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