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Front Hum Neurosci. 2010 Aug 10;4. pii: 61. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2010.00061. eCollection 2010.

Listening for recollection: a multi-voxel pattern analysis of recognition memory retrieval strategies.

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Department of Psychology, Grand Valley State University Allendale, MI, USA.


Recent studies of recognition memory indicate that subjects can strategically vary how much they rely on recollection of specific details vs. feelings of familiarity when making recognition judgments. One possible explanation of these results is that subjects can establish an internally directed attentional state ("listening for recollection") that enhances retrieval of studied details; fluctuations in this attentional state over time should be associated with fluctuations in subjects' recognition behavior. In this study, we used multi-voxel pattern analysis of fMRI data to identify brain regions that are involved in listening for recollection. We looked for brain regions that met the following criteria: (1) Distinct neural patterns should be present when subjects are instructed to rely on recollection vs. familiarity, and (2) fluctuations in these neural patterns should be related to recognition behavior in the manner predicted by dual-process theories of recognition: Specifically, the presence of the recollection pattern during the pre-stimulus interval (indicating that subjects are "listening for recollection" at that moment) should be associated with a selective decrease in false alarms to related lures. We found that pre-stimulus activity in the right supramarginal gyrus met all of these criteria, suggesting that this region proactively establishes an internally directed attentional state that fosters recollection. We also found other regions (e.g., left middle temporal gyrus) where the pattern of neural activity was related to subjects' responding to related lures after stimulus onset (but not before), suggesting that these regions implement processes that are engaged in a reactive fashion to boost recollection.


episodic memory; fMRI; long-term memory; pattern classification

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