Distinct prefrontal cortex activity associated with item memory and source memory for visual shapes

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2003 Jun;17(1):75-82. doi: 10.1016/s0926-6410(03)00082-x.


In contrast to item memory, which refers to recognition or recall of previously presented information, source memory refers to memory for the context of previously presented information. The relatively few functional MRI (fMRI) source memory studies conducted to date have provided evidence that item memory and source memory are associated with differential activity in right and left prefrontal cortex, respectively. To both confirm this distinction in prefrontal cortex and to determine whether other differences in the neural substrates associated with these cognitive functions exist, an event-related fMRI study was conducted. In this study, item memory and source memory encoding phases were identical; participants viewed a series of abstract visual shapes presented on the left or right side of the screen and were instructed to remember each shape and its spatial location. During the item memory retrieval phase, shapes from the encoding phase were intermixed with new shapes and participants made an old-new judgment. During the source memory retrieval phase, all shapes were from the encoding phase and participants made a left-right judgment. An event-related analysis of item memory and source memory revealed a right and left prefrontal cortex distinction. Moreover, only item memory was associated with activity in the medial temporal lobes. These results confirm and extend previous findings that item memory and source memory are associated with distinct neural substrates.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*