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Neuroimage. 2012 Feb 1;59(3):2982-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.09.079. Epub 2011 Oct 7.

True and phantom recollection: an fMRI investigation of similar and distinct neural correlates and connectivity.

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  • 1The Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


Although research suggests that most false memories are mediated by a sense of familiarity, behavioral evidence indicates that some are characterized by retrieval of item-specific details associated with recollection. However, neuroimaging studies have yet to isolate and analyze the neural correlates of false (or phantom) recollection, focusing instead on general recognition processes. In doing so, results are mixed with respect to the role of the medial temporal lobes (MTL) in distinguishing between true and false retrieval. The present study sought to investigate the neural basis of true and phantom recollection and clarify the role of the MTL in dissociating between the two processes. Results showed that true and phantom recollection were associated with a largely overlapping retrieval network including activity in bilateral anterior parahippocampal gyrus, fusiform gyrus, anterior cingulate cortex, and right superior parietal cortex. However, connectivity analyses using two common MTL seeds revealed a more inferior network (fusiform gyrus, hippocampus, middle temporal gyrus) associated with true recollection and a more superior network (superior parietal, superior frontal gyrus, posterior cingulate cortex) associated with false recollection. Finally, direct comparisons between true and phantom recollection showed greater activity in right hippocampus and early visual cortex for true recollection, whereas no region exhibited greater activity for false recollection. Results indicate that while both true and phantom recollection show similar patterns of activation, there are also distinctions in the neural networks contributing to the two recollection processes. Moreover, results conclude that within the MTL, the hippocampus proper can distinguish between true and phantom recollection.

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