Parametric fMRI analysis of visual encoding in the human medial temporal lobe

Hippocampus. 1999;9(6):637-43. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-1063(1999)9:6<637::AID-HIPO4>3.0.CO;2-V.


A number of functional brain imaging studies indicate that the medial temporal lobe system is crucially involved in encoding new information into memory. However, most studies were based on differences in brain activity between encoding of familiar vs. novel stimuli. To further study the underlying cognitive processes, we applied a parametric design of encoding. Seven healthy subjects were instructed to encode complex color pictures into memory. Stimuli were presented in a parametric fashion at different rates, thus representing different loads of encoding. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to assess changes in brain activation. To determine the number of pictures successfully stored into memory, recognition scores were determined afterwards. During encoding, brain activation occurred in the medial temporal lobe, comparable to the results obtained by others. Increasing the encoding load resulted in an increase in the number of successfully stored items. This was reflected in a significant increase in brain activation in the left lingual gyrus, in the left and right parahippocampal gyrus, and in the right inferior frontal gyrus. This study shows that fMRI can detect changes in brain activation during variation of one aspect of higher cognitive tasks. Further, it strongly supports the notion that the human medial temporal lobe is involved in encoding novel visual information into memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*