Neuroimaging studies have suggested that specific regions of the frontal and medial temporal cortex are engaged during memory formation. Further, there is specialization across these regions such that verbal materials appear to preferentially engage the left regions while nonverbal materials primarily engage the right regions. An open question, however, has been to what extent frontal regions contribute to successful memory formation. The present study investigates this question using a reversible lesion technique known as the Wada test. Patients memorized words and unfamiliar faces while portions of their left and right hemispheres were temporarily anesthetized with sodium amytal. Subsequent memory tests revealed that faces were remembered better than words following left-hemisphere anesthesia, whereas words were remembered better than faces following right-hemisphere anesthesia. Importantly, inspection of the circulation affected by the amytal further suggests that these memory impairments did not result from direct anesthetization of the medial temporal regions. Taken in the context of the imaging findings, these results suggest that frontal regions may also contribute to memory formation in normal performance.

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