The cognitive neuroscience of memory distortion

Neuron. 2004 Sep 30;44(1):149-60. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2004.08.017.


Memory distortion occurs in the laboratory and in everyday life. This article focuses on false recognition, a common type of memory distortion in which individuals incorrectly claim to have encountered a novel object or event. By considering evidence from neuropsychology, neuroimaging, and electrophysiology, we address three questions. (1) Are there patterns of neural activity that can distinguish between true and false recognition? (2) Which brain regions contribute to false recognition? (3) Which brain regions play a role in monitoring or reducing false recognition? Neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies suggest that sensory activity is greater for true recognition compared to false recognition. Neuropsychological and neuroimaging results indicate that the hippocampus and several cortical regions contribute to false recognition. Evidence from neuropsychology, neuroimaging, and electrophysiology implicates the prefrontal cortex in retrieval monitoring that can limit the rate of false recognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Memory Disorders / psychology
  • Neurosciences / methods*