The neural substrates of recognition memory for verbal information: Spanning the divide between short- and long-term memory


One of the classic categorical divisions in the history of memory research is that between short-term and long-term memory. Indeed, because memory for the immediate past (a few seconds) and memory for the relatively more remote past (several seconds and beyond) are assumed to rely on distinct neural systems, more often than not, memory research has focused either on short- (or “working memory”) or on long-term memory. Using an auditory-verbal continuous recognition paradigm designed for fMRI, we examined how the neural signatures of recognition memory change across an interval of time (from 2.5 to 30 sec) that spans this hypothetical division between short- and long-term memory. The results revealed that activity during successful auditory-verbal item recognition in inferior parietal cortex and the posterior superior temporal lobe was maximal for early lags, whereas, conversely, activity in the left inferior frontal gyrus increased as a function of lag. Taken together, the results reveal that as the interval between item repetitions increases, there is a shift in the distribution of memory-related activity that moves from posterior temporo-parietal cortex (lags 1-4) to inferior frontal regions (lags 5-10), indicating that as time advances, the burden of recognition memory is increasingly placed on top-down retrieval mechanisms that are mediated by structures in inferior frontal cortex.

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience