Past theoretical models of memory have stressed the importance of schematic representations of memory: information that is congruent with existing knowledge (a schema) is usually remembered better than less congruent information. Only recently, however, have memory schemas been studied from the perspective of systems neuroscience. Additionally, schematic models fail to account for the fact that incongruent (novel) information is sometimes better remembered than information that fits into a schema. In this paper, researchers reviewed lesion and neuroimaging findings in animals and humans that relate to this relationship between schemas and novelty. They also sketched a model that relates key brain regions to the importance of congruency in memory formation. An important aspect of this framework is the efficiency of learning that is enabled by interactions between the temporal lobe and medial prefrontal cortex. This model, which integrates older theoretical knowledge about memory with new information about brain networks, will aid the formulation of testable hypotheses about how the brain allows us to remember both schematic and novel information.
Citation: van Kesteren, M.T.R., Ruiter, D.J., Fernandez, G., & Henson, R.N. (2012). How schema and novelty augment memory formation. Trends in Neurosciences, 35(4), 211-219.