Default network activation during episodic and semantic memory retrieval: A selective meta-analytic comparison

Neuropsychologia. 2016 Jan 8:80:35-46. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.11.006. Epub 2015 Nov 10.


It remains unclear whether and to what extent the default network subregions involved in episodic memory (EM) and semantic memory (SM) processes overlap or are separated from one another. This study addresses this issue through a controlled meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies involving healthy participants. Various EM and SM task paradigms differ widely in the extent of default network involvement. Therefore, the issue at hand cannot be properly addressed without some control for this factor. In this regard, this study employs a two-stage analysis: a preliminary meta-analysis to select EM and SM task paradigms that recruit relatively extensive default network regions and a main analysis to compare the selected task paradigms. Based on a within-EM comparison, the default network contributed more to recollection/familiarity effects than to old/new effects, and based on a within-SM comparison, it contributed more to word/pseudoword effects than to semantic/phonological effects. According to a direct comparison of recollection/familiarity and word/pseudoword effects, each involving a range of default network regions, there were more overlaps than separations in default network subregions involved in these two effects. More specifically, overlaps included the bilateral posterior cingulate/retrosplenial cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, and left anteromedial prefrontal regions, whereas separations included only the hippocampal formation and the parahippocampal cortex region, which was unique to recollection/familiarity effects. These results indicate that EM and SM retrieval processes involving strong memory signals recruit extensive and largely overlapping default network regions and differ mainly in distinct contributions of hippocampus and parahippocampal regions to EM retrieval.

Keywords: Default mode network; Episodic memory; Fmri; Meta-analysis; Semantic memory.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Semantics*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology