A classic finding of the psychology of memory is the “serial position effect.” Immediate free recall of a word list is more efficient for items presented early (primacy effect) or late (recency effect), with respect to those in the middle. In an event-related, randomized block design, we interfered with the encoding of unrelated words lists with brief trains of repetitive TMS (rTMS), applied coincidently with the acoustic presentation of each word to the left dorsolateral pFC, the left intraparietal lobe, and a control site (vertex). Interference of rTMS with encoding produced a clear-cut double dissociation on accuracy during immediate free recall. The primacy effect was selectively worsened by rTMS of the dorsolateral pFC, whereas recency was selectively worsened by rTMS of the intraparietal lobe. These results are in agreement with the double dissociation between short-term and long-term memory observed in neuropsychological patients and provide direct evidence of distinct cortical mechanisms of encoding in the human brain.

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