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Complementary role of frontoparietal activity and cortical pattern similarity in successful episodic memory encoding.


One central goal in cognitive neuroscience of learning and memory is to characterize the neural processes that lead to long-lasting episodic memory. In addition to the stronger frontoparietal activity, greater category- or item-specific cortical representation during encoding, as measured by pattern similarity (PS), is also associated with better subsequent episodic memory. Nevertheless, it is unknown whether frontoparietal activity and cortical PS reflect distinct mechanisms. To address this issue, we reanalyzed previous data (Xue G, Dong Q, Chen C, Lu ZL, Mumford JA, Poldrack RA. 2010. Greater neural pattern similarity across repetitions is associated with better memory. Science. 330:97, Experiment 3) using a novel approach based on combined activation-based and information-based analyses. The results showed that across items, stronger frontoparietal activity was associated with greater PS in distributed brain regions, including those where the PS was predictive of better subsequent memory. Nevertheless, the item-specific PS was still associated with later episodic memory after controlling the effect of frontoparietal activity. Our results suggest that one possible mechanism of frontoparietal activity on episodic memory encoding is via enhancing PS, resulting in more unique and consistent input to the medial temporal lobe. In addition, they suggest that PS might index additional processes, such as pattern reinstatement as a result of study-phase retrieval, that contribute to episodic memory encoding.

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