Memory trace stabilization leads to large-scale changes in the retrieval network: a functional MRI study on associative memory

Learn Mem. 2007 Jul 10;14(7):472-9. doi: 10.1101/lm.605607. Print 2007 Jul.


Spaced learning with time to consolidate leads to more stabile memory traces. However, little is known about the neural correlates of trace stabilization, especially in humans. The present fMRI study contrasted retrieval activity of two well-learned sets of face-location associations, one learned in a massed style and tested on the day of learning (i.e., labile condition) and another learned in a spaced scheme over the course of one week (i.e., stabilized condition). Both sets of associations were retrieved equally well, but the retrieval of stabilized association was faster and accompanied by large-scale changes in the network supporting retrieval. Cued recall of stabilized as compared with labile associations was accompanied by increased activity in the precuneus, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the bilateral temporal pole, and left temporo-parietal junction. Conversely, memory representational areas such as the fusiform gyrus for faces and the posterior parietal cortex for locations did not change their activity with stabilization. The changes in activation in the precuneus, which also showed increased connectivity with the fusiform area, are likely to be related to the spatial nature of our task. The activation increase in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, might reflect a general function in stabilized memory retrieval. This area might succeed the hippocampus in linking distributed neocortical representations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways
  • Parietal Lobe / cytology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Temporal Lobe / cytology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology