Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Most studies using a recognition memory paradigm examine the neural processes that support the ability to consciously recognize past events. However, there can also be nonconscious influences from the prior study episode that reflect repetition suppression effects—a reduction in the magnitude of activity for repeated presentations of stimuli—that are revealed by comparing neural activity associated with forgotten items to correctly rejected novel items. The present fMRI study examined the effect of emotional valence (positive vs. negative) on repetition suppression effects. Using a standard recognition memory task, 24 participants viewed line drawings of previously studied negative, positive, and neutral photos intermixed with novel line drawings. For each item, participants made an old–new recognition judgment and a sure–unsure confidence rating. Collapsed across valence, repetition suppression effects were found in ventral occipital-temporal cortex and frontal regions. Activity levels in the majority of these regions were not modulated by valence. However, repetition enhancement of the amygdala and ventral occipital-temporal cortex functional connectivity reflected nonconscious memory for negative items. In this study, valence had little effect on activation patterns but had a larger effect on functional connectivity patterns that were markers of nonconscious memory. Beyond memory and emotion, these findings are relevant to other cognitive and social neuroscientists that utilize fMRI repetition effects to investigate perception, attention, social cognition, and other forms of learning and memory.