The right hippocampus participates in short-term memory maintenance of object-location associations

Carinne Piekema, Roy P C Kessels, Rogier B Mars, Karl Magnus Petersson, Guillén Fernández
NeuroImage 2006 October 15, 33 (1): 374-82
Doubts have been cast on the strict dissociation between short- and long-term memory systems. Specifically, several neuroimaging studies have shown that the medial temporal lobe, a region almost invariably associated with long-term memory, is involved in active short-term memory maintenance. Furthermore, a recent study in hippocampally lesioned patients has shown that the hippocampus is critically involved in associating objects and their locations, even when the delay period lasts only 8 s. However, the critical feature that causes the medial temporal lobe, and in particular the hippocampus, to participate in active maintenance is still unknown. This study was designed in order to explore hippocampal involvement in active maintenance of spatial and non-spatial associations. Eighteen participants performed a delayed-match-to-sample task in which they had to maintain either object-location associations, color-number association, single colors, or single locations. Whole-brain activity was measured using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging and analyzed using a random effects model. Right lateralized hippocampal activity was evident when participants had to maintain object-location associations, but not when they had to maintain object-color associations or single items. The present results suggest a hippocampal involvement in active maintenance when feature combinations that include spatial information have to be maintained online.

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