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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

December 2015, Vol. 27, No. 12, Pages 2529-2540
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00878)
© 2015 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Retrieval Goal Modulates Memory for Context
Article PDF (715.1 KB)

fMRI was employed to assess whether the contents of recollection vary according to retrieval goal. At study, visually presented words were superimposed on urban or rural scenes or a gray background. The word–background pairs were presented in one of three spatial locations. During a scanned test phase, studied and unstudied words were presented. Two different source memory tasks were randomly interleaved. In the “background” task, the requirement was to judge whether the word had been presented against one of the two classes of scene, as opposed to the alternate class or the gray background. In the “location” task, discrimination was between words presented in one of the two lateral locations and words presented in either of the alternate locations. In both tasks, unstudied words required a separate response. In the background task, words studied against scenes elicited greater activity in parahippocampal and retrosplenial cortex than did words studied against the gray background, consistent with prior reports of scene reinstatement effects. Reinstatement effects were also evident in the location task. Relative to the background task, however, the effects were attenuated in parahippocampal cortex. In other regions, including medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex, activity elicited in the location task by items associated with scenes was lower than that elicited by items presented on the gray background. The findings are interpreted as evidence that contextual retrieval is partially modulated by retrieval goal.