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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

March 2008, Vol. 20, No. 3, Pages 432-446
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20035)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Hippocampus is Preferentially Associated with Memory for Spatial Context
Article PDF (581.7 KB)

The existence of a functional-anatomic dissociation for retrieving item versus contextual information within subregions of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) is currently under debate. We used a spatial source memory paradigm during event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate this issue. At study, abstract shapes were presented to the left or right of fixation. During test, old and new shapes were presented at fixation. Participants responded whether each shape had been previously presented on the “left,” the “right,” or was “new.” Activity associated with contextual memory (i.e., source memory) was isolated by contrasting accurate versus inaccurate memory for spatial location. Item-memory-related activity was isolated by contrasting accurate item recognition without contextual memory with forgotten items. Source memory was associated with activity in the hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex. Although item memory was not associated with unique MTL activity at our original threshold, a region-of-interest (ROI) analysis revealed item-memory-related activity in the perirhinal cortex. Furthermore, a functional-anatomic dissociation within the parietal cortex for retrieving item and contextual information was not found in any of three ROIs. These results support the hypothesis that specific subregions in the MTL are associated with item memory and memory for context.