Dissociation between explicit memory and configural memory in the human medial temporal lobe

Cereb Cortex. 2008 Sep;18(9):2192-207. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhm245. Epub 2008 Jan 29.


Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the current study explored the differential mnemonic contributions of the hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobe (MTL) cortices to explicit recognition memory and configural learning. Using a task that required processing of repeated and novel visuospatial contexts across multiple trials, we examined MTL activation in relation to 3 forms of learning in a single paradigm: 1) context-independent procedural learning, 2) context-dependent configural learning, and 3) explicit recognition memory. Activations in hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex were associated with explicit memory, differentiating between subsequently remembered and forgotten repeated contexts, but were unrelated to context-dependent configural learning. Activations in regions of perirhinal and entorhinal cortex were associated with configural learning of repeated contexts independent from explicit memory for those contexts. Procedural learning was unrelated to activation in any MTL region. The time course of activation across learning further differed in MTL subregions with MTL cortex demonstrating repetition-related decreases and hippocampus repetition-related increases. These repetition effects were differentially sensitive to recognition with only activation in hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex tracking recognized items. These imaging findings converge with studies of amnesia and indicate dissociable roles for hippocampus in learning that supports explicit recognition and for anterior MTL cortex in configural learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*