Spaced learning usually leads to better recognition memory as compared with massed learning, yet the underlying neural mechanisms remain elusive. One open question is whether the spacing effect is achieved by reducing neural repetition suppression. In this fMRI study, participants were scanned while intentionally memorizing 120 novel faces, half under the massed learning condition (i.e., four consecutive repetitions with jittered interstimulus interval) and the other half under the spaced learning condition (i.e., the four repetitions were interleaved). Recognition memory tests afterward revealed a significant spacing effect: Participants recognized more items learned under the spaced learning condition than under the massed learning condition. Successful face memory encoding was associated with stronger activation in the bilateral fusiform gyrus, which showed a significant repetition suppression effect modulated by subsequent memory status and spaced learning. Specifically, remembered faces showed smaller repetition suppression than forgotten faces under both learning conditions, and spaced learning significantly reduced repetition suppression. These results suggest that spaced learning enhances recognition memory by reducing neural repetition suppression.

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