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Neuroanatomical dissociation of encoding processes related to priming and explicit memory
Schott, B.H., Richardson-Klavehn, A., HENSON, R.N., Becker, C., Heinze, H.J. & Duzel, E.
Journal of Neuroscience, 26(3), 792-800
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Priming is a facilitation of cognitive processing with stimulus repetition that can occur without explicit memory. Whereas the functional neuroanatomy of perceptual priming at retrieval is established, encoding processes that initiate priming and explicit memory have not yet been anatomically separated, and we investigated them using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. Activations predicting later explicit memory occurred in the bilateral medial temporal lobe (MTL) and left prefrontal cortex (PFC). Activity predicting later priming did not occur in these areas, but rather in the bilateral extrastriate cortex, left fusiform gyrus, and bilateral inferior PFC, areas linked with stimulus identification. Surprisingly, these regions showed response reductions. Our results demonstrate that priming and explicit memory have distinct functional neuroanatomies at encoding, with MTL activations being specific for explicit memory, and suggest that priming is initiated by sharpness of neural responding in stimulus identification areas, consistent with recent electrophysiological evidence regarding priming-related neural oscillations at encoding. We tentatively suggest that this sharpened responding at encoding may set the stage for increased neural processing efficiency at retrieval, with these different neural mechanisms both leading to observed priming-related hemodynamic decreases, and argue that neural measurements at encoding, and not just at retrieval, will be critical in resolving the debate about the neural mechanisms of learning that underlie priming.