Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The hippocampus plays a critical role in episodic memory, among other cognitive functions. However, few tools exist to causally manipulate hippocampal function in healthy human participants. Recent work has targeted hippocampal–cortical networks by performing TMS to a region interconnected with the hippocampus, posterior inferior parietal cortex (pIPC). Such hippocampal-targeted TMS enhances associative memory and influences hippocampal functional connectivity. However, it is currently unknown which stages of mnemonic processing (encoding or retrieval) are affected by hippocampal-targeted TMS. Here, we examined whether hippocampal-targeted TMS influences the initial encoding of associations (vs. items) into memory. To selectively influence encoding and not retrieval, we performed continuous theta-burst TMS before participants encoded object–location associations and assessed memory after the direct effect of stimulation dissipated. Relative to control TMS and baseline memory, pIPC TMS enhanced associative memory success and confidence. Item memory was unaffected, demonstrating a selective influence on associative versus item memory. The strength of hippocampal–pIPC functional connectivity predicted TMS-related memory benefits, which was mediated by parahippocampal and retrosplenial cortices. Our findings indicate that hippocampal-targeted TMS can specifically modulate the encoding of new associations into memory without directly influencing retrieval processes and suggest that the ability to influence associative memory may be related to the fidelity of hippocampal TMS targeting. These results support the notion that pIPC TMS may serve as a potential tool for manipulating hippocampal function in healthy participants. Nonetheless, future work combining hippocampal-targeted continuous theta-burst TMS with neuroimaging is needed to better understand the neural basis of TMS-induced memory changes.