Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The recognition of both personally familiar objects and places involves nonspatial memory retrieval processes, but only personally familiar places are represented as space. Although the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) is considered to process both types of such memories, its functional organization is poorly understood. In this event-related fMRI study, normal subjects judged familiar/unfamiliar pictures in four categories: familiar places (FP), familiar objects (FO), unfamiliar places (UP), and unfamiliar objects (UO), thus constituting a two-factorial design. A significant main effect of stimuli with greater activation in the place (FP and UP) than object (FO and UO) trials was observed bilaterally in several medial temporo-occipito-parietal regions, including the caudal PCC (cPCC) and parahippocampal gyrus. The reverse comparison revealed greater activation in the lateral inferior occipito-temporal junctions and intraparietal sulci bilaterally. A significant main effect of familiarity with greater activation in the familiar (FP and FO) than unfamiliar (UP and UO) trials was observed in the mid-dorsal PCC (mPCC), retrosplenial cortex, posterior precuneus, and the left intraparietal sulcus. Activation specific to the FP trials (as assessed by the interaction) was observed in the right posterodorsal PCC (pPCC) only. Together with data from previous functional imaging studies, the results suggest a functional segregation of human PCC with differential involvement of pPCC in spatial representations of personally familiar places and of the mPCC and retrosplenial cortex in episodic retrieval of personally familiar places and objects. Activation of the left intraparietal sulcus may reflect retrieval of memories related to object manipulation.