Overcoming suppression in order to remember: contributions from anterior cingulate and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2008 Jun;8(2):211-21. doi: 10.3758/cabn.8.2.211.


The ability to remember is often compromised by competition from irrelevant memories. However, acts of selective remembering can alter the competitive relationship between memories; memories that are selected against are weakened, whereas those that are retrieved are strengthened. Whereas the weakening of selected-against memories is typically evidenced by subsequently poorer recall of these memories, the present study tested the hypothesis that when previously selected-against memories can subsequently be successfully retrieved, such acts of successful retrieval are associated with engagement of neurobiological mechanisms that serve to detect and overcome competition. Consistent with this hypothesis, fMRI revealed that anteriorcingulate cortex and right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex are differentially engaged during successful retrieval of previously selected-against memories, and that their engagement is directly related to the magnitude of weakening that is induced by prior acts of selecting against these memories.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / blood supply
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Repression, Psychology*


  • Oxygen