Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Considerable evidence suggests that attentional resources are necessary for the encoding of episodic memories, but the nature of the relationship between attention and neural correlates of encoding is unclear. Here we address this question using functional magnetic resonance imaging and a divided-attention paradigm in which competition for different types of attentional resources was manipulated. Fifteen volunteers were scanned while making animacy judgments to visually presented words and concurrently performing one of three tasks on auditorily presented words: male/female voice discrimination (control task), 1-back voice comparison (1-back task), or indoor/outdoor judgment (semantic task). The 1-back and semantic tasks were designed to compete for task-generic and task-specific attentional resources, respectively. Using the “remember/know” procedure, memory for the study words was assessed after 15 min. In the control condition, subsequent memory effects associated with later recollection were identified in the left dorsal inferior frontal gyrus and in the left hippocampus. These effects were differentially attenuated in the two more difficult divided-attention conditions. The effects of divided attention seem, therefore, to reflect impairments due to limitations at both task-generic and task-specific levels. Additionally, each of the two more difficult divided-attention conditions was associated with subsequent memory effects in regions distinct from those showing effects in the control condition. These findings suggest the engagement of alternative encoding processes to those engaged in the control task. The overall pattern of findings suggests that divided attention can impact later memory in different ways, and accordingly, that different attentional resources, including task-generic and task-specific resources, make distinct contributions to successful episodic encoding.