Selectivity in Postencoding Connectivity with High-Level Visual Cortex Is Associated with Reward-Motivated Memory

J Neurosci. 2017 Jan 18;37(3):537-545. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4032-15.2016.


Reward motivation has been demonstrated to enhance declarative memory by facilitating systems-level consolidation. Although high-reward information is often intermixed with lower reward information during an experience, memory for high value information is prioritized. How is this selectivity achieved? One possibility is that postencoding consolidation processes bias memory strengthening to those representations associated with higher reward. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the influence of differential reward motivation on the selectivity of postencoding markers of systems-level memory consolidation. Human participants encoded intermixed, trial-unique memoranda that were associated with either high or low-value during fMRI acquisition. Encoding was interleaved with periods of rest, allowing us to investigate experience-dependent changes in connectivity as they related to later memory. Behaviorally, we found that reward motivation enhanced 24 h associative memory. Analysis of patterns of postencoding connectivity showed that, even though learning trials were intermixed, there was significantly greater connectivity with regions of high-level, category-selective visual cortex associated with high-reward trials. Specifically, increased connectivity of category-selective visual cortex with both the VTA and the anterior hippocampus predicted associative memory for high- but not low-reward memories. Critically, these results were independent of encoding-related connectivity and univariate activity measures. Thus, these findings support a model by which the selective stabilization of memories for salient events is supported by postencoding interactions with sensory cortex associated with reward.

Significance statement: Reward motivation is thought to promote memory by supporting memory consolidation. Yet, little is known as to how brain selects relevant information for subsequent consolidation based on reward. We show that experience-dependent changes in connectivity of both the anterior hippocampus and the VTA with high-level visual cortex selectively predicts memory for high-reward memoranda at a 24 h delay. These findings provide evidence for a novel mechanism guiding the consolidation of memories for valuable events, namely, postencoding interactions between neural systems supporting mesolimbic dopamine activation, episodic memory, and perception.

Keywords: VTA; category-selective visual cortex; consolidation; hippocampus; rest; reward.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reward*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult