FMRI signals associated with memory strength in the medial temporal lobes: a meta-analysis

Neuropsychologia. 2008 Dec;46(14):3185-96. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.08.025.


To identify patterns of memory-related neural activity in the medial temporal lobes (MTL), a quantitative meta-analysis of 17 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies was performed. The analysis shows that increased activity in the hippocampus and the parahippocampal cortex predicts subsequent memory strength. During retrieval, activity in the hippocampus increases in association with strong memory. In the perirhinal cortex, increased activity predicts subsequent recognition, whether based on weak or strong memory, whereas during retrieval activity decreases below the level for misses in association with both weak and strong memory. The results are consistent with the claim that the hippocampus selectively subserves recollection, whereas adjacent structures subserve familiarity [Eichenbaum, H., Yonelinas, A., & Ranganath, C. (2007). The medial temporal lobe and recognition memory. The Annual Review of Neuroscience, 30, 123-152]. However, this conclusion depends on a specific dual-process theory of recognition memory that has been used to interpret the results. An alternative dual-process model holds that the behavioral methods used to differentiate recollection from familiarity instead separate strong memories from weak memories. When the fMRI data are interpreted in terms of the alternative theory, the fMRI results do not point to selective roles for the hippocampus or the adjacent MTL structures. The fMRI data alone cannot distinguish between these two models, so other methods are needed to resolve the issue.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*