The neural correlates of competition during memory retrieval are modulated by attention to the cues

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

As people learn more facts about a concept, those facts become more difficult to remember. This is called the fan effect, where fan refers to the number of facts known about a concept. Increasing fan has been shown to decrease accuracy and increase response time and left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) activity during retrieval. In this study, participants learned 36 arbitrary person–location pairings and made recognition decisions while we recorded brain activity using fMRI. We separately manipulated the fan of each person and location, as well as the training procedure with which each pair was studied. In the person focus condition, participants studied pairs with a picture of the person's face and used the person as a retrieval cue during training. In the location focus condition, participants studied pairs with a picture of the location and used the location as a retrieval cue during training. We found that the fan of the focused cue had a greater effect on response time, accuracy, and left VLPFC activity during retrieval than the fan of the unfocused cue. We also found that the parahippocampal place area (PPA) was more active during the recognition of pairs studied in the location focus condition, but not when the fan of the location was high. Overall, we found opposite effects of fan on VLPFC and PPA that were modulated by cue focus.




Published In

Neuropsychologia, 49, 2427-2438.