Monthly
208 pp. per issue
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ISSN
0898-929X
E-ISSN
1530-8898
2014 Impact factor:
4.69

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

October 2014, Vol. 26, No. 10, Pages 2385-2399
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00633)
@ 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Neural Basis of Involuntary Episodic Memories
Article PDF (817.92 KB)
Abstract

Voluntary episodic memories require an intentional memory search, whereas involuntary episodic memories come to mind spontaneously without conscious effort. Cognitive neuroscience has largely focused on voluntary memory, leaving the neural mechanisms of involuntary memory largely unknown. We hypothesized that, because the main difference between voluntary and involuntary memory is the controlled retrieval processes required by the former, there would be greater frontal activity for voluntary than involuntary memories. Conversely, we predicted that other components of the episodic retrieval network would be similarly engaged in the two types of memory. During encoding, all participants heard sounds, half paired with pictures of complex scenes and half presented alone. During retrieval, paired and unpaired sounds were presented, panned to the left or to the right. Participants in the involuntary group were instructed to indicate the spatial location of the sound, whereas participants in the voluntary group were asked to additionally recall the pictures that had been paired with the sounds. All participants reported the incidence of their memories in a postscan session. Consistent with our predictions, voluntary memories elicited greater activity in dorsal frontal regions than involuntary memories, whereas other components of the retrieval network, including medial-temporal, ventral occipitotemporal, and ventral parietal regions were similarly engaged by both types of memories. These results clarify the distinct role of dorsal frontal and ventral occipitotemporal regions in predicting strategic retrieval and recalled information, respectively, and suggest that, although there are neural differences in retrieval, involuntary memories share neural components with established voluntary memory systems.