Uncovering the neural mechanisms underlying learning from tests.

Date of Original Version




PubMed ID


Abstract or Description

People learn better when re-study opportunities are replaced with tests. While researchers have begun to speculate on why testing is superior to study, few studies have directly examined the neural underpinnings of this effect. In this fMRI study, participants engaged in a study phase to learn arbitrary word pairs, followed by a cued recall test (recall second half of pair when cued with first word of pair), re-study of each pair, and finally another cycle of cued recall tests. Brain activation patterns during the first test (recall) of the studied pairs predicts performance on the second test. Importantly, while subsequent memory analyses of encoding trials also predict later accuracy, the brain regions involved in predicting later memory success are more extensive for activity during retrieval (testing) than during encoding (study). Those additional regions that predict subsequent memory based on their activation at test but not at encoding may be key to understanding the basis of the testing effect.




Published In

PLoS One, 9, 3, 92025-92025.