Differential contributions of the parahippocampal place area and the anterior hippocampus to human memory for scenes

Stefan Köhler, Joelle Crane, Brenda Milner
Hippocampus 2002, 12 (6): 718-23
Past neuroimaging research has identified a parahippocampal place area (PPA) in the posterior medial temporal lobe (MTL), which responds preferentially to visual scenes and plays a role in episodic memory for this class of stimuli. In the present positron emission tomography study, we examined to what extent the functional characteristics of the PPA resemble those of other, more anterior MTL regions across various learning and recognition-memory tasks. We also determined whether the involvement of the PPA in recognition of previously studied scenes is specific to a particular type of scene information. We found that, like the PPA, anterior hippocampal regions showed a novelty response (higher activation for novel than repeated scenes) and a stimulus-related response (higher activation for scenes than objects) during learning, indicating that MTL structures other than the PPA contribute to the encoding of novel stimulus relationships in scenes. However, these anterior hippocampal regions showed no involvement during recognition of either spatial or nonspatial information contained in scenes. The PPA, by contrast, was consistently involved in recognition of all types of scene details, presumably through interactions with co-activated parietal and occipitotemporal cortices. We suggest that MTL contributions from the PPA are sufficient to support recognition of scenes when the task can be based on a perceptually based familiarity process.

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