It remains unresolved whether the medial temporal lobe activations found in recent neuroimaging studies are mediated by novelty detection alone, by specific kinds of encoding or consolidation operations, or both. This study attempted to see whether associative encoding or consolidation is sufficient to cause such activation by matching for novelty across conditions. Using single-photon emission computer tomography (SPECT) (with TC99mHMPAO), we compared the activation patterns produced by the associative encoding and the perceptual matching of novel complex scenes in 10 normal subjects using both statistical parametric mapping (SPM) and a regions-of-interest (ROI) approach. During the encoding condition, significant activations were detected in the left hippocampal/parahippocampal region, the left cingulate cortex, and the right prefrontal cortex, using both statistical techniques. Additionally, activation was found in the right cingulate cortex, and a trend towards activation was found in the right hippocampal/parahippocampal region using the ROI approach. In contrast, no medial temporal activations were found during the matching condition, which produced bilateral occipito-parietal and right posterior inferior parietal (supramarginal gyrus) activations. These results no only confirm that the associative encoding and/or consolidation of complex scenes is partially mediated by medial temporal lobe structures, but also demonstrate, for the first time, that associative encoding/consolidation is sufficient to produce such an activation. The implications of the high degree of consistency revealed by the results of the SPM and ROI comparison are discussed.