Dynamic changes in the medial temporal lobe during incidental learning of object-location associations.

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Abstract or Description

The role of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) in associative memory encoding has been the focus of many memory experiments. However, there has been surprisingly little investigation of whether the contributions of different MTL subregions (amygdala, hippocampus [HPC], parahippocampal [PHc], perirhinal cortex [PRc], and temporal polar cortex [TPc]) shift across multiple presentations during associative encoding. We examined this issue using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging and a multivoxel pattern classification analysis. Subjects performed a visual search task, becoming faster with practice to locate objects whose locations were held constant across trials. The classification analysis implicated right HPC and amygdala early in the task when the speed-up from trial to trial was greatest. The same analysis implicated right PRc and TPc late in learning when speed-up was minimal. These results suggest that associative encoding relies on complex patterns of neural activity in MTL that cannot be expressed by simple increases or decreases of blood oxygenation level-dependent signal during learning. Involvement of MTL subregions during encoding of object-location associations depends on the nature of the learning phase. Right HPC and amygdala support active integration of object and location information, while right PRc and TPc are involved when object and spatial representations become unitized into a single representation.




Published In

Cerebral cortex, 22, 4, 828-837.