II. PET studies of memory: novel versus practiced free recall of word lists

Neuroimage. 1995 Dec;2(4):296-305. doi: 10.1006/nimg.1995.1037.


Positron emission tomography (PET) with the tracer H215O was used to measure regional cerebral blood flow in 13 healthy volunteers while they engaged in free recall of 15-item word lists from the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning task. The study was designed so that recall of well-practiced versus novel material could be compared. One week before the PET study, subjects were trained to perfect recall of List A, while they were exposed to list B only 60 s prior to PET data acquisition. As in the companion study of free recall of complex narratives, we observed that practice tended to decrease the size of activations in regions involved in the memory component of the task; we also observed that the novel recall task produced greater activation in left frontal regions, probably due to active encoding. A commonality of other regions observed in this pair of studies, as well as other studies of memory in the literature, suggests that the human brain may contain a distributed multinodal general memory system. Nodes on this network include the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortices, the thalamus, the anterior and posterior cingulate, the precuneus, and the cerebellum. There appears to be a commonality of components across tasks (e.g., retrieval, encoding) that is independent of content, as well as differentiation of some components that may be content-specific or tasks-specific. In addition, these results support a significant role for the cerebellum in cognitive functions such as memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / instrumentation*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Female
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Reference Values
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / instrumentation*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*