How the past becomes present: neural mechanisms governing retrieval from episodic memory
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Remembering previously experienced events can happen as a result of an effortful retrieval attempt. At other occasions, a memory can enter our minds without any apparent effort – or, indeed, intention - to retrieve. Although it has long been appreciated that retrieval from episodic memory is intertwined with cognitive control, the neural mechanisms of memory-control interactions remain unclear.
In this thesis I have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and scalp-recorded event-related potentials (ERP) to study the neural basis of episodic retrieval at varying levels of cognitive control. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) has been suggested to support a cognitive control mechanism (context processing) which is relevant during various situations that demand maintenance of current goals and rules. Although increased dlPFC recruitment with increasing context processing demands has been demonstrated during episodic retrieval, there are relatively few studies directly comparing the engagement of dlPFC during episodic retrieval with that during other task domains.
In Study I, context processing demands were amplified in episodic retrieval, auditory attention and emotion regulation tasks. This led to overlapping dlPFC recruitment in the first two domains and a divergent reliance on ventromedial prefrontal cortex in the emotion domain. Thus, when selection between competing representations needs to be carried out in accordance with the currently relevant goals and task rules, the episodic memory system interacts with domain-general cognitive control mechanisms.
Studies II and III explored the reactive nature of retrieval-specific control mechanisms: can we flexibly switch between semantic and episodic retrieval based on the information extracted from a retrieval cue? This was studied using a recognition memory task where the relevant information could with equal probability be supplied by the semantic or the episodic memory system. The fMRI results (Study II) showed that the brain activation during the ‘episodic’ but not the ‘semantic’ trials was expressed in the right prefrontal cortex. As the order of trials was unpredictable, the corresponding changes in brain activation might be evoked by differences in early cue-trace interactions. An event-related potential study (Study III) with the same experimental protocol as in Study II showed that neural processing corresponding to the two trial types diverged as early as in the time window 100-140 ms post-cue onset, thus highlighting the importance of early cue-trace matching in the selection of further retrieval processing.
Study IV explored incidental episodic retrieval. Although this form of retrieval is a common experience in everyday life and a disturbing symptom in some psychiatric conditions, it is not clear how such spontaneous expressions of memory are initiated and to what extent the prefrontal cortex is engaged. The fMRI results showed, consistent with Study I, that dlPFC is specifically associated with the intention to retrieve, independently of success. Retrieval success engaged similar networks for incidentally as well as intentionally retrieved memories, comprising the hippocampus, precuneus, ventrolateral PFC, and the anterior cingulate cortex. Collectively, the fMRI and ERP results indicated that incidental retrieval was initiated by early (< 200 ms) oldness estimation carried out on the semantic information extracted from the retrieval cues.
Taken together, the results of this thesis indicate that episodic retrieval can be initiated via two routes: a bottom-up input rising early during the cue processing, and a top-down input provided by the cognitive control processes mediated by the prefrontal cortex.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå university , 2010. , 71 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1332
episodic retrieval, cognitive control, retrieval intention, prefrontal cortex, functional magnetic resonance imaging, event-related potentials
Research subject Diagnostic Radiology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-31873ISBN: 978-91-7264-948-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-31873DiVA: diva2:297969
2010-03-18, sal 260, Inst. för strålningsvetenskaper, NUS (byggnad 3A), Umeå, 09:00 (English)
Nyberg, LarsÅhlström Riklund, Katrine
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