Monthly
208 pp. per issue
8 1/2 x 11, illustrated
ISSN
0898-929X
E-ISSN
1530-8898
2014 Impact factor:
4.69

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

April 2015, Vol. 27, No. 4, Pages 765-774
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00749)
© 2015 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Pupillometry as a Glimpse into the Neurochemical Basis of Human Memory Encoding
Article PDF (544.15 KB)
Abstract

Neurochemical systems are well studied in animal learning; however, ethical issues limit methodologies to explore these systems in humans. Pupillometry provides a glimpse into the brain's neurochemical systems, where pupil dynamics in monkeys have been linked with locus coeruleus (LC) activity, which releases norepinephrine (NE) throughout the brain. Here, we use pupil dynamics as a surrogate measure of neurochemical activity to explore the hypothesis that NE is involved in modulating memory encoding. We examine this using a task-irrelevant learning paradigm in which learning is boosted for stimuli temporally paired with task targets. We show that participants better recognize images that are paired with task targets than distractors and, in correspondence, that pupil size changes more for target-paired than distractor-paired images. To further investigate the hypothesis that NE nonspecifically guides learning for stimuli that are present with its release, a second procedure was used that employed an unexpected sound to activate the LC–NE system and induce pupil-size changes; results indicated a corresponding increase in memorization of images paired with the unexpected sounds. Together, these results suggest a relationship between the LC–NE system, pupil-size changes, and human memory encoding.