Event-related fMRI studies of episodic encoding and retrieval: meta-analyses using activation likelihood estimation

Neuropsychologia. 2009 Jul;47(8-9):1765-79. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.02.028. Epub 2009 Mar 4.


The recent surge in event-related fMRI studies of episodic memory has generated a wealth of information about the neural correlates of encoding and retrieval processes. However, interpretation of individual studies is hampered by methodological differences, and by the fact that sample sizes are typically small. We submitted results from studies of episodic memory in healthy young adults, published between 1998 and 2007, to a voxel-wise quantitative meta-analysis using activation likelihood estimation [Laird, A. R., McMillan, K. M., Lancaster, J. L., Kochunov, P., Turkeltaub, P. E., & Pardo, J. V., et al. (2005). A comparison of label-based review and ALE meta-analysis in the stroop task. Human Brain Mapping, 25, 6-21]. We conducted separate meta-analyses for four contrasts of interest: episodic encoding success as measured in the subsequent-memory paradigm (subsequent Hit vs. Miss), episodic retrieval success (Hit vs. Correct Rejection), objective recollection (e.g., Source Hit vs. Item Hit), and subjective recollection (e.g., Remember vs. Know). Concordance maps revealed significant cross-study overlap for each contrast. In each case, the left hemisphere showed greater concordance than the right hemisphere. Both encoding and retrieval success were associated with activation in medial-temporal, prefrontal, and parietal regions. Left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) and medial-temporal regions were more strongly involved in encoding, whereas left superior parietal and dorsolateral and anterior PFC regions were more strongly involved in retrieval. Objective recollection was associated with activation in multiple PFC regions, as well as multiple posterior parietal and medial-temporal areas, but not hippocampus. Subjective recollection, in contrast, showed left hippocampal involvement. In summary, these results identify broadly consistent activation patterns associated with episodic encoding and retrieval, and subjective and objective recollection, but also subtle differences among these processes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Brain* / anatomy & histology
  • Brain* / blood supply
  • Brain* / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*


  • Oxygen