From hippocampus to whole-brain: The role of integrative processing in episodic memory retrieval

Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Apr;38(4):2242-2259. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23518. Epub 2017 Jan 23.


Multivariate functional connectivity analyses of neuroimaging data have revealed the importance of complex, distributed interactions between disparate yet interdependent brain regions. Recent work has shown that topological properties of functional brain networks are associated with individual and group differences in cognitive performance, including in episodic memory. After constructing functional whole-brain networks derived from an event-related fMRI study of memory retrieval, we examined differences in functional brain network architecture between forgotten and remembered words. This study yielded three main findings. First, graph theory analyses showed that successfully remembering compared to forgetting was associated with significant changes in the connectivity profile of the left hippocampus and a corresponding increase in efficient communication with the rest of the brain. Second, bivariate functional connectivity analyses indicated stronger interactions between the left hippocampus and a retrieval assembly for remembered versus forgotten items. This assembly included the left precuneus, left caudate, bilateral supramarginal gyrus, and the bilateral dorsolateral superior frontal gyrus. Integrative properties of the retrieval assembly were greater for remembered than forgotten items. Third, whole-brain modularity analyses revealed that successful memory retrieval was marginally significantly associated with a less segregated modular architecture in the network. The magnitude of the decreases in modularity between remembered and forgotten conditions was related to memory performance. These findings indicate that increases in integrative properties at the nodal, retrieval assembly, and whole-brain topological levels facilitate memory retrieval, while also underscoring the potential of multivariate brain connectivity approaches for providing valuable new insights into the neural bases of memory processes. Hum Brain Mapp 38:2242-2259, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: functional magnetic resonance imaging; graph theory; medial temporal lobes; modularity; recall.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Afferent Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Verbal Learning / physiology
  • Vocabulary
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen