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Neuropsychologia. 2012 Nov;50(13):3062-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.07.035. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

Adaptation to cognitive context and item information in the medial temporal lobes.

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1
Department of Psychology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Williams Hall (0436), Blacksburg, VA 24060, USA. rdiana@vt.edu

Abstract

The medial temporal lobes (MTL) play an essential role in episodic memory, and accumulating evidence indicates that two MTL subregions--the perirhinal (PRc) and parahippocampal (PHc) cortices--might have different functions. According to the binding of item and context theory (Diana, Yonelinas, & Ranganath, 2007; Eichenbaum, Yonelinas, & Ranganath, 2007), PRc is involved in processing item information, the target of memory encoding, whereas PHc is involved in processing context information, peripheral information that identifies the circumstances of the episode. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) adaptation to test the roles of different MTL subregions in the processing of item and context information. Participants were scanned while viewing a series of objects. Each object was presented with a unique semantic encoding question that elicited a salient cognitive context. The object picture, the encoding question, both, or neither were immediately repeated. We found that PRc activity was sensitive to repetition of the object but not the encoding question whereas PHc activity was sensitive to repetition of the encoding question but not the object. These data are consistent with the idea that the PRc and PHc are differentially involved in the representation of item and context information and additionally suggest that the role of the PHc extends to nonspatial, cognitive context information.

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