Abstract

Although the medial-temporal lobes (MTL), PFC, and parietal cortex are considered primary nodes in the episodic memory network, there is much debate regarding the contributions of MTL, PFC, and parietal subregions to recollection versus familiarity (dual-process theory) and the feasibility of accounts on the basis of a single memory strength process (strength theory). To investigate these issues, the current fMRI study measured activity during retrieval of memories that differed quantitatively in terms of strength (high vs. low-confidence trials) and qualitatively in terms of recollection versus familiarity (source vs. item memory tasks). Support for each theory varied depending on which node of the episodic memory network was considered. Results from MTL best fit a dual-process account, as a dissociation was found between a right hippocampal region showing high-confidence activity during the source memory task and bilateral rhinal regions showing high-confidence activity during the item memory task. Within PFC, several left-lateralized regions showed greater activity for source than item memory, consistent with recollective orienting, whereas a right-lateralized ventrolateral area showed low-confidence activity in both tasks, consistent with monitoring processes. Parietal findings were generally consistent with strength theory, with dorsal areas showing low-confidence activity and ventral areas showing high-confidence activity in both tasks. This dissociation fits with an attentional account of parietal functions during episodic retrieval. The results suggest that both dual-process and strength theories are partly correct, highlighting the need for an integrated model that links to more general cognitive theories to account for observed neural activity during episodic memory retrieval.

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