Send to

Choose Destination
Neuropsychologia. 1999 Jan;37(1):103-18.

Neural correlates of semantic and episodic memory retrieval.

Author information

Laboratory of Brain and Cognition National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1366, USA.


To investigate the functional neuroanatomy associated with retrieving semantic and episodic memories, we measured changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) with positron emission tomography (PET) while subjects generated single word responses to achromatic line drawings of objects. During separate scans, subjects either named each object, retrieved a commonly associated color of each object (semantic condition), or recalled a previously studied uncommon color of each object (episodic condition). Subjects were also scanned while staring at visual noise patterns to provide a low level perceptual baseline. Relative to the low level baseline, all three conditions revealed bilateral activations of posterior regions of the temporal lobes, cerebellum, and left lateralized activations in frontal regions. Retrieving semantic information, as compared to object naming, activated left inferior temporal, left superior parietal, and left frontal cortices. In addition, small regions of right frontal cortex were activated. Retrieving episodic information, as compared to object naming, activated bilateral medial parietal cortex, bilateral retrosplenial cortex, right frontal cortex, thalamus, and cerebellum. Direct comparison of the semantic and episodic conditions revealed bilateral activation in temporal and frontal lobes in the semantic task (left greater than right), and activation in medial parietal cortex, retrosplenial cortex, thalamus, and cerebellum (but not right frontal regions) in the episodic task. These results support the assertion that distinct neural structures mediate semantic and episodic memory retrieval. However, they also raise questions regarding the specific roles of left temporal and right frontal cortices during episodic memory retrieval, in particular.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center