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J Neurosci. 2017 Mar 8;37(10):2764-2775. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1534-16.2017. Epub 2017 Feb 8.

Are There Multiple Kinds of Episodic Memory? An fMRI Investigation Comparing Autobiographical and Recognition Memory Tasks.

Author information

1
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130.
2
VISN 17 Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans, Waco, Texas, 76711.
3
Center for Vital Longevity, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas 75235.
4
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University, Waco, Texas 76798, and.
5
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130, kathleen.mcdermott@wustl.edu.
6
Department of Radiology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, 63110.

Abstract

What brain regions underlie retrieval from episodic memory? The bulk of research addressing this question with fMRI has relied upon recognition memory for materials encoded within the laboratory. Another, less dominant tradition has used autobiographical methods, whereby people recall events from their lifetime, often after being cued with words or pictures. The current study addresses how the neural substrates of successful memory retrieval differed as a function of the targeted memory when the experimental parameters were held constant in the two conditions (except for instructions). Human participants studied a set of scenes and then took two types of memory test while undergoing fMRI scanning. In one condition (the picture memory test), participants reported for each scene (32 studied, 64 nonstudied) whether it was recollected from the prior study episode. In a second condition (the life memory test), participants reported for each scene (32 studied, 64 nonstudied) whether it reminded them of a specific event from their preexperimental lifetime. An examination of successful retrieval (yes responses) for recently studied scenes for the two test types revealed pronounced differences; that is, autobiographical retrieval instantiated with the life memory test preferentially activated the default mode network, whereas hits in the picture memory test preferentially engaged the parietal memory network as well as portions of the frontoparietal control network. When experimental cueing parameters are held constant, the neural underpinnings of successful memory retrieval differ when remembering life events and recently learned events.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Episodic memory is often discussed as a solitary construct. However, experimental traditions examining episodic memory use very different approaches, and these are rarely compared to one another. When the neural correlates associated with each approach have been directly contrasted, results have varied considerably and at times contradicted each other. The present experiment was designed to match the two primary approaches to studying episodic memory in an unparalleled manner. Results suggest a clear separation of systems supporting memory as it is typically tested in the laboratory and memory as assessed under autobiographical retrieval conditions. These data provide neurobiological evidence that episodic memory is not a single construct, challenging the degree to which different experimental traditions are studying the same construct.

KEYWORDS:

autobiographical memory; default mode network; episodic memory; fMRI; parietal memory network; recognition memory

PMID:
28179554
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1534-16.2017
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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