Neural activity that predicts subsequent memory and forgetting: a meta-analysis of 74 fMRI studies

Neuroimage. 2011 Feb 1;54(3):2446-61. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.09.045. Epub 2010 Sep 30.


The present study performed a quantitative meta-analysis of functional MRI studies that used a subsequent memory approach. The meta-analysis considered both subsequent memory (SM; remembered>forgotten) and subsequent forgetting (SF; forgotten>remembered) effects, restricting the data used to that concerning visual information encoding in healthy young adults. The meta-analysis of SM effects indicated that they most consistently associated with five neural regions: left inferior frontal cortex (IFC), bilateral fusiform cortex, bilateral hippocampal formation, bilateral premotor cortex (PMC), and bilateral posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Direct comparisons of the SM effects between the studies using verbal versus pictorial material and item-memory versus associative-memory tasks yielded three main sets of findings. First, the left IFC exhibited greater SM effects during verbal material than pictorial material encoding, whereas the fusiform cortex exhibited greater SM effects during pictorial material rather than verbal material encoding. Second, bilateral hippocampal regions showed greater SM effects during pictorial material encoding compared to verbal material encoding. Furthermore, the left hippocampal region showed greater SM effects during pictorial-associative versus pictorial-item encoding. Third, bilateral PMC and PPC regions, which may support attention during encoding, exhibited greater SM effects during item encoding than during associative encoding. The meta-analysis of SF effects indicated they associated mostly with default-mode network regions, including the anterior and posterior midline cortex, the bilateral temporoparietal junction, and the bilateral superior frontal cortex. Recurrent activity oscillations between the task-positive and task-negative/default-mode networks may account for trial-to-trial variability in participants' encoding performances, which is a fundamental source of both SM and SF effects. Taken together, these findings clarify the neural activity that supports successful encoding, as well as the neural activity that leads to encoding failure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Association Learning
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Verbal Learning / physiology