Goal-dependent modulation of declarative memory: neural correlates of temporal recency decisions and novelty detection

Neuropsychologia. 2007 Jun 18;45(11):2608-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.02.025. Epub 2007 Mar 7.


Declarative memory allows an organism to discriminate between previously encountered and novel items, and to place past encounters in time. Numerous imaging studies have investigated the neural processes supporting item recognition, whereas few have examined retrieval of temporal information. In the present study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was conducted while subjects engaged in temporal recency and item novelty decisions. Subjects encountered three-alternative forced-choice retrieval trials, each consisting of two words from a preceding study phase and one novel word, and were instructed to either identify the novel item (Novelty trials) or the more recently presented study item (Recency trials). Relative to correct Novelty decisions, correct Recency decisions elicited greater activation in a network of left-lateralized regions, including frontopolar and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and intraparietal sulcus. A conjunction analysis revealed that these left-lateralized regions overlapped with those previously observed to be engaged during source recollection versus novelty detection, suggesting that during Recency trials subjects attempted to recollect event details. Consistent with this interpretation, correct Recency decisions activated posterior hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex, whereas incorrect Recency decisions elicited greater anterior cingulate activation. The magnitude of this latter effect positively correlated with activation in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Finally, correct Novelty decisions activated the anterior medial temporal lobe to a greater extent than did correct Recency decisions, suggesting that medial temporal novelty responses are not obligatory but rather can be modulated by the goal-directed allocation of attention. Collectively, these findings advance understanding of how subjects strategically engage frontal and parietal mechanisms in the service of attempting to remember the temporal order of events, and how retrieval goals impact novelty processing within the medial temporal lobe.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Time Perception / physiology*